Mrs. Washington’s “Because of a Book” Initiative


Kara Hoffman and Audrey Domasky

“‘How awesome would it be if you could have a kid say something to you that started with: ‘Because of a book…?’”. This casual comment made in passing by Mrs. Clark, the middle school librarian, to Mrs. Washington, an English teacher at the senior high, sparked a school-wide initiative for reading and literacy. You may have seen the colorful posters dotting the hallways or taken a survey about your favorite book and author in class, but did you ever wonder what all the hype was about? Reading for fun is for nerds anyways, right? At least, it’s for the kids who don’t play sports, participate in extracurricular activities, or have a million things to do each day, which ends up being a fairly small percentage of the student body. Enter Mrs. Washington and her “Because of a Book” initiative, which both investigates high school students’ reading habits and promotes a passion and excitement for reading that is often found lacking in a high school setting. The Arrowhead interviewed Mrs. Washington, often affectionately referred to by past and present students as “Momma Washington,” to find out more about the initiative and the motivation behind it.


What do you teach at North Hills?

I teach Pre-AP English 9 and have been for almost 20 years.


Why do you enjoy teaching?

It is my passion. I find it more of a calling than a job. I just really love working with young men and women and helping them to reach their potential as it relates to not only what we do here in English class, but hopefully in all areas of learning for the rest of their lives. I hope to develop a passion within my students for what we do here. And honestly, I cannot think of anything else I would rather be doing.


What is the purpose behind the book event?

The event is a way to prove that kids do read and that they enjoy reading and want to read. Also, we want to promote literacy and to prove that kids do love to read.


Why is literacy so important?

Literacy is important because it filters into every other thing you do in life. The more you read, the more you know, the better you are able to understand things, the higher the test scores go, the farther you go in life. I mean, it’s just a proven fact.


How did you go about starting the event?

Well, we passed out surveys to students, teachers, principals, custodians, everybody. We actually received about 700 back!


What most surprised you about the event?

I found that students DO read! And boys are reading more than I could have ever imagined. Students are not just reading fiction, but non-fiction, as well.


In the future, do you want to expand the event? What would you do differently?

I want to see literacy promoted as much as art and music are promoted by celebrities and high profile charities. I would like to see everybody on the bandwagon of “let’s get more literate” and to see people promoting not just reading, but literacy.

Mrs. Washington’s initiative for literacy and the love of reading is something every person can get behind. Whether you are a science, math, or English person, reading gives you the essential tools to interpret, think critically, and write fluently, which is necessary in all aspects of life. And hopefully, all of us will be able to say that our lives were changed “Because of a Book.”