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These kids, educators, and schools made a difference!
Email your OCHO Project success story and photos so that we may post them here. Your story will inspire others by showing what little effort it takes to help those in need and make a huge difference in the world - and feel great doing so!

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ocho project reading program success stories

How in the world can young children do so much for their peers across town? At Coral Park Elementary School in Coral Springs, Florida, The OCHO Project: Read for a Need did just that. OCHO stands for "Opportunities for Children to Help Others." Students in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades were challenged to read eight books and obtain a sponsor for $1.00 per book. With the money collected, books were purchased for the Coral Park readers to give to 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders in a neighboring Title One school, Hunt Elementary. Children selected books by genre (i.e., mystery, fantasy, biography, etc.) and took them to Hunt where 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade students who did not have many books at home could select their very own titles to keep! The children at Hunt were also challenged to read eight books prior to the OCHO Project delivering books to them. Pictures tell the story as do student’s reflections of their involvement in Project OCHO.

Comment from our students:

“I love to read and I want other kids to love it, too!”
“It felt really good to help other children.”  

Dr. Amanda Miles, Principal (submitted story)
Coral Park Elementary School
Coral Springs, FL

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Coral Park Students and new books

I am a Guidance Counselor at Northwest Elementary in Hudson, Florida. Northwest is a Title One school with over 80% of our students on free or reduced lunch. I met Marilyn Peryln in August of 2008 at a Character Camp. She was presenting on Service-Learning and, of course, The OCHO Project: Read for a Need. I knew immediately that The OCHO Project would be a great service-learning project for our students to get involved in.

Every year when the book fair comes around it just breaks my heart. Many students feel left out because their parents did not have money to give them. Others come in with a handful of change, hoping to get a book, but walk away with an eraser or pencil. What breaks my heart even more is the fact that many students tell me they do not have any books at home. I thought to myself, "How wonderful would it be to have a book fair where all students receive books for free!"

As a Title One school, I knew that many of our families would not be able to collect the $8 pledge money. We reached out to businesses and community members to ask that they donate $8 pledges for our students who could not afford it. About 230 students brought in pledge money and we raised enough money to sponsor another 80 students. Veteran's Elementary, another local, non Title One School also held a book drive for us to collect slightly used books for our book fair.

Success Story: Northwest Elementary School

We scheduled the book fair for May 2009 so that our students would have books at home to read over the summer. All of our 750 students pledged to read 8 books regardless of whether they could bring in pledge money and all 750 students were able to choose 4 books for free from the book fair. Over $1200 was collected and sent to Look at a Book, the OCHO partnering book provider. There were over 3000 books at our book fair!

The OCHO Project was a huge success and the students were so excited to have books of their own to take home and read. More importantly, they learned valuable lessons in trustworthiness, kindness, and responsibility. Our school was given an opportunity to "Pay it Forward" by sending books to Tanzania, Africa for other children who do not have books at home. Students brought in books they received at last year’s book fair that they finished reading so that another child can enjoy them too. Northwest students are anxiously awaiting this year’s OCHO book fair!

Lisa Peart, Guidance Counselor
Northwest Elementary, Hudson, FL

Number of books obtained through The OCHO Project: 3000

Read The Tampa Tribune feature article


Success Story: Coral Park Elementary

Number of books donated through The OCHO Project: 1500


The students are reading their books from the OCHO project. They were so excited to be able to receive books from their classmates working towards a goal to help their school. The students that accomplished their goal felt such a sense of pride when watching all of the students with their new books. After choosing their books, the students were so excited that they opened their books immediately and began to read. They loved sharing their new "picks" with other students. Many of the students also wrote thank you notes to the internet  company, Look at a Book, that helped provide these books. This project helped our staff and students come together to help others and see the success of their efforts. Our students learned what literacy is and how important it is to be able to have books at home so that they can improve their reading skills.

Tami Hess,
Special Education K-5

Coral Park Students and new books
Success Story: West Elementary -

Four hundred eighty-five students, five teachers, a principal, and guests celebrated in song and dance when the students received books sent to them by students at Northwest Elementary School in Hudson, Florida.

Marilyn Perlyn, creator of The OCHO Project: Read for a Need, Opportunities for Children to Help Others, was there to partake in the celebration. Marilyn told the students that they could be “teachers” by drawing pictures that share what their lives are like in Africa and sending them to their new friends at Northwest Elementary School. There was only one problem- not only did the children have no crayons but they had never even heard of a crayon! Needless to say, paper and crayons were immediately sent to the school.

Northwest Student Council members did a power point presentation for students at their school so that they could learn about the lives of the Moya Primary School students. 

Success Story: Northwest Elementary School

Number of books shared through The OCHO Project: 100+

Read The Pasco (Tampa Bay) Times feature article


Read the Daily Jefferson County Union feature article


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Children from Northwest Elementary School and New Renaissance Middle School in Florida donated 700 books that were distributed to children in Gudur, India. The Gifting of Books event was coordinated through the efforts of Surendra Bommireddy, the Dream India Foundation, and the Rotary Club of Gudur.

Marilyn Perlyn, founder of The OCHO Project: Read for a Need whispered inspirational words to each child as she handed out packages of three books to each student. These children have few or no books of their own and were so thrilled to now have these books donated by their American friends. Several Rotarians spoke to the children and shared the message that "anything you want to see in the world or hear about can be found in a book."

Telagu is the local language spoken by the children, however children are encouraged to learn English as part of their education. It was truly a day of happiness for all!

Success Story: Students from Northwest

Number of books shared through The OCHO Project: 700

Read The Pasco (Tampa Bay) Times feature article



Downtown Miami Charter School and I had the BEST time with the OCHO project for the Holidays. We had 628 students participate and the students competed for which class could read the most books.

The teachers have requested to host another OCHO Project at the end of the year with a Summer Splash theme - " Splash into Reading".  

Thank you for again for this opportunity. You have a phenomenal program!!!

Genvieve Stephenson
School Counselor, Downtown Miami Charter School 

Success Story: Holiday season reading

booksforkidsAll of the third grade students at Imagine Rosefield participated in the free book fair. The students loved every part of the OCHO Project. They enjoyed reading the books online at Pearson's website, www.wegivebooks.org, and knowing that their efforts would directly impact real students that we would meet. The four classes of third graders at Imagine Rosefield read a surprising 1,270 books online through the OCHO Project.  Also, the students loved collecting books from home to donate to children who were less fortunate. Labeling the books was another part of the project that really gave students ownership.

Actually going to the other school and running the book fair was the biggest highlight for the students. Our students were able to help 480 students. These students ranged in age from preschool to fourth grade. Imagine Rosefield students enjoyed finding a buddy in each class that came into the book fair. My students' job was to make sure their buddy found 3 books. This worked very well. Teachers from the school who received the books were so touched and the students were full of smiles. After the students received the books they sat in a line in the hallway with their books.  The students were so excited!  They were flipping through the books and reading so diligently while their classmates finished selecting books. This whole experience was extremely valuable to our students and we hope to do it again next year.

 Anne Hui, 3rd grade teacher
 Imagine Rosefield • Surprize, Arizona

Success Story: Students at Imagine

Visit the PHOTO GALLERY • visit Imagine Rosefield website for their story


Number of books shared through The OCHO Project: 1400

Number of books donated through The OCHO Project: 600

Number of books shared through The OCHO Project: 1200

northandrews1Our school implemented the OCHO Project with an Adaptor Grant of $400 from the Broward Education Foundation and an additional $600 from the Leo Goodwin Foundation. Media Specialist Paula Northridge and assistant Peggy Martin played a valuable role in the project by presenting The Biggest and Brightest Light to the students in an effort to inspire them to help others and by making the Media Center a central location for collecting donated books.

Our students received their own books and were then given an opportunity to "pay it forward" by collecting books for the children’s library of Miami Children’s Hospital. They brought in new books and books from home that they no longer used. Parents posted flyers at their job sites and also collected books.  The 530 books, which were generously donated by parents, teachers and students of North Andrews Gardens, include Clifford, Disney Stories, and Chapter Books, among others. Our World of Books donated 60 books for a total of 590 books. When asked to express how they felt about the project a student said, “It felt really good to help other children!”  

“It is very important for us to teach children about helping others. There is a strong message in providing children with the gift of reading, and our school is very proud to have contributed to giving back to our community, “ said Principal Davida J. Shacter. “It taught the children a very valuable lesson from which they will benefit for years to come.” 

The project was successful because not only was our school able to obtain 1000 books for our students but more importantly the students benefited from seeing how they could make a difference for children in Miami Children’s Hospital.

Tara Dukanauskas
2nd grade teacher

Success Story: North Andrews Garden



Number of books shared through The OCHO Project: 1590

The project at LJEC (a south area Behavioral Center for Broward County) ran from Oct 17 - Dec 17, 2010. Our population is transient, so our population count is from 82 - 125 at any given time. The average participation could be at 80 students K - 12th grade.

Those who monitored the OCHO Project could not have guessed, in their wildest sc015026a02dreams, the effect the Project created among our population. Mentors were to monitor/ chart their students 8 book requirement. It was a great way for the mentors to communicate with the students. We gave an ice cream party to those who completed the reading requirement of 8 books portion of the project.  

With my grant monies, I bought 600 books from Chip at Look at a Book in Ohio for our Book Fair. Each student, who was still a student at LJEC, was able to choose 4 books to keep. All students at LJEC were able to take home books.  Again, our population is not familiar with this.  They asked, "For free?" Staff caught "kids" reading their books on the bus, at lunch in the cafeteria, and in class. Very rare for our type of population. 

The project was to "read for a need." Our "Need" was a school in Africa. Through Missionary, Janice Lewis, we were able to send 400 books to her “students.”

The OCHO Project: Read for a Need not only met our goals, but also exceeded our expectations!

Debra Kash
4th and 5th grade teacher

Success Story: The OCHO Project

Number of books shared through The OCHO Project: 700 total, 400 donated to JL Ministries of Africa (see photo)


lawnprimarybookfair1We  are pleased to announce that our students were able to select and bring home many titles from over 1300 books! Those who read the required 8 books (including at least two online) were able to choose 6 books each, which was most of our students! All other students received at least a few books as well. It was a powerful project and a wonderful day for the students as they were able to see the benefit of commitment and hard work all for the love of reading. 

The quality of the titles Pearson sent to Lawn Manor were fabulous!  I have to admit, when I heard we would be receiving free books I feared we would receive unknowns or books that were not developmentally appropriate for our elementary students. Pearson did a fantastic job of working with us to ensure we had popular, age-appropriate titles including books from Jan Brett, Eric Carle, and Judy Blume to name a few.  I enjoyed the privilege of helping students select books and heard several comments from students as they were browsing the Pearson titles. One student enthusiastically stated, “This is the first time I’ve gotten new books. I only get books from my sister’s book shelf.”  Another student remarked that all of his favorite books were at the fair.  Comments like these were quite validating and spoke to the value of the OCHO Project as well as to the generosity Pearson.

lawnprimarybookfair2I think what I liked most about the project was the excitement it created. The buzz in the school leading up to the fair was undeniable.  Students were truly motivated to read.  As the program concluded, I had the idea to use the project for RTI (Responsiveness to Intervention) due to the student’s excitement to see if they were making progress towards reading goals. Although we did not have the ability to track that information at that point in the program, I can assure you it played a role in helping students to become better readers.  

Additionally, students and community members donated 500 books to Lawn Manor to donate to our partner schools in India and Vietnam. The kids are really looking forward to seeing the pictures of the children receiving the books. The program was a great success and we are so appreciative of Pearson for their support. We will look to work with Pearson again in the future as we explore curricular changes and updates.

Nick Henkle, Principal
Lawn Manor Primary

Success Story: Lawn Manor Primary

Number of books shared through The OCHO Project: 1800 total,
500 donated to partner schools in India and Vietnam

hobartkidsreadStudents at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School have participated in a project to read and to help others. Each student read eight books, earned eight OCHO points for completing reading activities, and raised money by bringing in small change for collection jars. The funds were used to purchase gently used books for the OCHO book fair where all students will select books for free. Many children at Hobart Boulevard Elementary have few or no books of their own. The OCHO Project: Read for a Need (Opportunities for Children to Help Others) offers children a chance to increase their own literary skills while helping others at the same time. Hobart Boulevard students have read a surprising 5,600 books and have “earned” 1000 new books for their book fair. We Give Books, an initiative of the Pearson Foundation located in Los Angeles, generously donated the books.

The Pearson Foundation, together with the Penguin Group, launched We Give Books, in 2010. We Give Books is a free website that enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in the hands of children who don't have them, simply by reading online. This gave our students an opportunity to both “read a book and give a book.”

“The books we received from We Give Books are just beautiful! Our school is a Title 1 school and these books will provide our children with books to keep and to read over the summer. We are very grateful,” said Jonathan Paek, principal. “Our students just loved this project! They were very touched knowing that their efforts would impact their peers and other children who are in need of books. Students had the opportunity to experience many character traits from this project.” In December Hobart students will “pay it forward” by sending books to children in Vietnam.

According to Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at The Johns Hopkins University, “A recent study of Baltimore students by Johns Hopkins University researchers showed that 65 percent of the achievement gap between poor and affluent children can be explained by unequal summer learning experiences during the elementary school years. And for low-income children, the slide in reading is particularly harmful: They fall behind an average of two months in reading while their middle-income peers tend to make slight gains. By fifth grade, low-income children can be as much as 2 1⁄2 years behind in reading.”

We are so grateful that through the We Give Books initiative we are able to provide books that our students will be able to take home to read during the summer and to continue to build a love of reading. “This whole experience was extremely valuable to our students and we hope to do it again next year,” said Wendy Scott, classroom teacher. “At Hobart, our objective is to educate children’s hearts as well as their minds.”

Success Story: Students’ Compassion Leads

Here at Verity Middle School in Ashland, Kentucky our seventh grade Discovery Team students participated in the OCHO project. (There are four teams within our school – two seventh grade teams and two eighth grade teams). This project grew into something I could not have been prouder of as their Reading Teacher.

Once given instructions my students took off with the project independently and did not have to be reminded of anything throughout the entire project! This NEVER happens in seventh grade! My students took pride in adding OCHO points, sharing sketches of scenes, reports, power points, etc.

Our students benefitted from this project tremendously! They learned empathy and compassion beyond what I had expected. When it came decision time, I told my students we could keep the grant provided books for just our team or we could share it with the entire school (500 students!). My students immediately said they wanted to share with the entire school even though they were the ones who had put in all the hard work and effort for the project!

The rest of the school (and teachers) were in shock at the opportunity to receive free books. The rest of the school (and teachers) made my team of students hundreds of thank you cards. My students were so proud!

In addition to the thank you cards, our school district has a monthly newsletter titled “Focus” where our OCHO project was featured for the whole district to see. Once again my students were so proud. They are already asking – “Do we get to do this in eighth grade too?”

OCHO is a wonderful project that I was honored to take part in and hope to again in the near future. Projects like these help build a more kind and compassionate society for our children to live in.

On behalf of the entire student body of Verity Middle School in Ashland, Kentucky I am writing this to say THANK YOU!!!

Sincerely, Nicole Whitt


Success Story: Verity Middle School

braillebooks1The OCHO Project was a huge success for students who are visually impaired in Broward County! Our students were asked to read The Biggest and Brightest Light in order to learn about empathy, compassion, and giving back! As a result, students were motivated to read eight books for leisure. These eight books allowed them the opportunity to earn a Braille Book Fair. This was unlike any experience they have ever had, due to the fact that school book fairs rarely, if ever, have accessible materials for our students. In addition to earning braille books for themselves, students put what they learned from The Biggest and Brightest Light into practice and earned additional books for students who are visually impaired in neighboring counties.

Students were also given the opportunity to win or earn electronic and digital media. This type of media gives students who are visually impaired the opportunity to develop auditory and technology skills needed in order for them to become competitive in college and the workplace. Students used the “Digital Download Station” to gain access to books that were not available in braille. Teachers and students reported that they had never seen such a selection of braille books! This was due to the generous contributions of Look At A Book, the Pinellas Braille Volunteers, and the School Board of Broward County Braillists. They took print media and generated braille materials. These materials, paired with the braille copy, not only helped to increase motivation and literacy for our students, but also gave their parents access to the same books as their children. This helps to create a shared reading experience for parents and children!

We were thrilled to be a part of the OCHO Project! Marilyn Perlyn assisted in facilitating our access to both print and braille books! She was excited to be involved and helped to get volunteers, funding, and to build community awareness! This was a fabulous experience and we look forward to working with Marilyn Perlyn and the OCHO Project on future endeavors!

Success Story: Wingate Oaks Center


dania1At Dania Elementary everyone knows what the O.C.H.O. Project means and what the letters stand for: Opportunity for Children to Help Others. It was an amazing event that everyone was able to participate in and one that we will not soon forget! Our school is a Title One school where the majority of our students receive free or reduced lunch.

Two years ago during the Broward Education Foundation’s Impact II event I met Marilyn Perlyn, I attended her workshop on the O.C.H.O. Project: Read for a Need and immediately I knew this was something I had to do at our school. When we created the school calendar for the year I proposed the idea to our principal. He thought it was a great idea for the students to read at least 8 books, but he did not feel we should burden our families with the responsibility of collecting the $8 pledge money. Nevertheless, my principal did give me the O.K. to do the project towards the end of the school year; I just had to figure out a different route. It breaks my heart each year when we hold the book fair and so many of our students cannot afford to buy a single book.

With the money I received from the B.E.F. I started to buy books every chance I got…I bought books on sale from the Scholastic warehouse, at thrifts stores, garage sales - but this was not going to be enough to invite our entire school.

One night my friends and I went out to dinner and of course the conversation about the OCHO Project came up. I have some amazing friends and immediately they offered to help. Two of them are ‘Den mothers’ and they decided to give their Brownies and Girls Scouts an opportunity to earn their ‘service badges’ helping Dania Elementary get more books. For months, their troops held a local book drive and they were able to collect over 5 boxes of slightly used books for our book fair.

Throughout this time Marilyn always kept in touch with me. I had told her about my dilemma and she would always give me the encouragement I needed to believe this was going to be great! A few months into the school year I received a wonderful surprise. A miracle in form of a check from a very generous foundation called Leo Goodman. They were able to send me the additional funds to make the OCHO Project a real success story. I was able to buy so many great, age-appropriate books for every grade level from Pre-K to 5th Grade… that was a real blessing!!!

May was finally here!!! Several teachers and students helped to organize the book fair and it looked great! The work involved to make the OCHO Project possible vanished with each smiling face that went through that room on those two days. What an amazing experience, not only for the students but the comments from my own peers! Imagine for the first time our students were able to pick books of their choice and not worry about the price. Our students were excited about books and reading – what more can we ask for? At the end of the book fair we proposed a challenge and at the beginning of the next school year, our school wants to "Pay it forward". The students will have an opportunity to bring in some of the books they’ve read over the summer and we will be able to send books to two local charities in our own area where we know it will benefit other children.

We would like to thank the Broward Education Foundation, The Leo Goodman Foundation and Marilyn Perlyn because without their help this would not have been possible. Thank you for bringing a ‘little light’ to Dania Elementary.

Zoila Delmonte, Kindergarten Teacher

Success Story: Dania Elementary Book

Number of books shared through The OCHO Project: Over 1300

Number of books shared through The OCHO Project: 1400

View Korea Times article

The sole member of The Ocho Project, LLC is Stepp'n Up Shoes for Kids, Inc., a Florida not for profit corporation with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.