As they walked into their new school library, students from Cameron Elementary didn't know where to look first.
The space was bigger than before, and the new furniture and freshly-painted walls made everything feel brighter. But welcome as they were, these cosmetic changes paled in comparison with the 2,000 new books that lined the library's shelves.
Cameron is the latest in a string of CPS schools to benefit from the READesign Program – a community outreach effort sponsored by Target and the Heart of America Foundation. Over the past four years, these beautification projects have transformed eight CPS libraries into warm, friendly spaces that inspire a lifelong love of reading.
"We're ecstatic to have a fully functional library filled with new books," said Cameron Assistant Principal Edna Mercado, who had steeled herself not to take a sneak peak as the library was being revamped. "Literacy is a huge focus for us, so this will be an instrumental resource four our school."
In addition to the new books, the library makeover also includes 32 iPads, giving the students and staff access to technology they've never experienced at school.
"The iPads are the best thing ever," said Assistant Principal Mercado. "There are so many things we've wanted to implement in our classrooms, especially in reading and phonics. It's so exciting to have the technology resources that will let us expose students to more and take them further."
Today's ribbon cutting was the culmination of a 10-week effort, wherein Target mobilized hundreds of corporate and community volunteers, the tangible goal being a new school library valued at $250,000, and the intangible result being the bringing together of a community in the service of others.
The ceremony was made extra special by visits from CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, both of whom seemed moved by the generosity to Chicago's children.
"Libraries are where the magic of reading really comes alive for children," said CEO Byrd-Bennett in her remarks. "When I was a student, the library was my favorite place in school. It was a place where I could follow my curiosity from one subject to another and let my imagination run wild."
"That is why I am so grateful to our community partners who are giving the students at Cameron a world-class, 21st Century school library. You are doing so much more than giving children access to books and technology. You are helping give our next generation access to a brighter future and a world with limitless possibilities."
In addition to their new library, each of Cameron's 820 students was given a backpack filled with school supplies, as well as seven brand new books to create or expand their personal libraries.
"Both the kids and their teachers were so pumped about this donation," said Assistant Principal Mercado. "Having these books increases the likelihood that family members will read with students at home, which aligns perfectly with the foundation we're working to create at school."