Eric and I are honored that Bulldozer’s Big Day was selected to be distributed to at-risk children throughout Romania. Translated into Romanian, the book takes on a different significance in its new role as ambassador for education.
Here’s the story, presented as Leslie Hawke wrote it, for those of you who might like to found a program like this, which is highly successful!
“In 2004, Peace Corps volunteer Leslie Hawke and Romanian educator Maria Gheorghiu co-founded Asociatia OvidiuRo, a non-govermental office, in Romania.
“Today OvidiuRo’s focus is on getting children at high risk of dropping out of school into preschool programs from the age of 3. See our website: www.ovid.ro. A key element of our preschool-promotion strategy (offering $12 a month in food coupons if impoverished parents bring their children to preschool/kindergarten every day) became nationally funded by the Romanian government in 2016 as a result of OvidiuRo’s success in raising attendance in 45 communities. The Romanian government now funds the food coupon component for ALL children living in poverty (i.e., all children between ages 3-5 with child welfare allowances). Thus, the program jumped from 2500 children to potentially 110,000 in one fell swoop in 2016. However, the government did not fund or plan any informational or implementation strategy – so the job of encouraging poor parents to register their children for preschool fell to us. And that’s how OvidiuRo’s “Read Aloud Caravan” was born:
“Through OvidiuRo’s “Read Aloud” Caravans (made possible by the European megastore chain, Carrefour) our team stops in Roma settlements and isolated rural communities, gathers together the youngsters (and their parents) and reads aloud from a “Big Book.” Then we give each child a picture book and a banana, and encourage the parents to register their children for ‘gradinita‘ AND to read to, or, since many of the parents are illiterate, at least look through the picture book with their young children at home. I think of us as the Romanian Johnny Appleseed of picture books.
“And the response – from teachers, parents, children, and even mayors and school superintendents – has been extraordinarily positive! It is particularly rewarding to see the rapt look on the faces of children who have literally never been read to or seen a picture book before. And the number of Roma children attending gradinita has grown dramatically!”
Bulldozer’s Big Day is their choice for the newest book to become part of the program. To date OvidiuRo has received royalty-free permission to translate and reprint the following titles:
- Good Enough to Eat by Lizzy Rockwell (HarperCollins)
- Eat Lots of Colors by Helen Marstiller (CreateSpace)
- Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle (H-M Harcourt)
- Silly Sally by Audrey Wood (H-M Harcourt)
- Up, Down & Around by Katherine Ayres (Candlewick)
- Over in the Meadow by Louise Voce (Candlewick)
- Translate and print a Big Book version of Bulldozer’s Big Day here in Romania to give to preschool teachers.
- Translate and reprint small paperback copies to give to children who literally have NO books or even newspapers in their homes.
- Distribute copies free-of-charge to parents who shop in Dedeman, a large DYI home improvement chain, founded, owned and operated by the Paval family (www.dedeman.ro) This encourages Romanian parents who walk through the doors of any of Dedeman’s 47 outlets, to regularly read with their preschool age children. Dedeman has been a major sponsor of OvidiuRo’s work from the beginning and is a highly respected Romanian-owned business.
“We believe that Bulldozer’s Big Day serves two highly ‘constructive’ purposes:
- It holds an obvious appeal to dads and
- Construction is one of the few adult jobs that Roma children are personally familiar with and exposed to.
“The books would be distributed for free and not sold through the trade or any other channel. We would translate and prepare the text plate files for printing and cover all costs of printing the books in Romanian.”
Inspiring, isn’t it? Eric and I will be traveling in Romania early next year. We feel lucky to be able to see the effect our little Bulldozer is having on Roma children throughout the country.