Sharing The Joy of Reading at Asa G. Hilliard in East Point

For Principal Maureen Lilly, who has worked tirelessly to create young readers at Asa G. Hilliard Elementary School in East Point, it was a no-brainer.

“Sure,” she told members of the Omicron Phi Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., which serves South Fulton. “You can hold monthly meetings at our school, but I’d like you all to have a presence in the school during the day as well.”

For the Alphas, who execute a mentoring program at Fulton Leadership Academy in East Point among many community service projects, it was a no-brainer as well. Out of this meeting of the minds came OPL’s Reading To Kids initiative, where members of the fraternity come individually or as a group to read books, sometimes donate books and engage students in multiple classrooms throughout the school.

“It was an ideal opportunity to touch more young lives in South Fulton,” Omicron Phi Lambda President Derrick Bell said. “Principal Lilly is a big proponent of reading, and so are we. Making direct contact by reading and talking to the students, letting them see what they can become, has been a rewarding experience that’s in line with the ideals of the fraternity. First of all, servants of all. We shall transcend all.”

Each month members bring or select a book from Lilly and start the students’ days off with an emphatic reading and conversation that often run longer than anticipated.

“I have been doing it for a while, and there is a personal satisfaction that comes with sharing your time and heart with the kids by reading to them,” said Clyde Mitchell, a fraternity member. “They are captivated with each story. And they appreciate seeing men spending time with them, especially the boys.”

To volunteer in South Fulton, the Alphas had to register with the state, take a qualifying test and undergo a background check. 

“It’s worth every minute of my time,” Alpha Phi Alpha Member Corey Adams said. “And here’s the thing: As much as the kids get out of it, we do, too. It’s gratifying to not only read to them, but to laugh with them, hear what’s on their minds, give them a man’s perspective. They are innocent and pure and their conversations reflect that.”

So far, the Alphas collectively have read to more than 300 students at Hilliard. The goal for next semester is to have an Alpha Day of Reading at Hilliard, where the fraternity brothers will read a book to every classroom in the school at the same time.

“This has been a great way to show kids at a young age the importance of reading and hopefully create lifelong readers,” Bell said.