Jessica Martin Talks Book ‘Em, the Magic of Reading, and How We Can Help

By Dylan Loggins

Harry Potter LogoIn Spring 2014, Belmont students Jessica Martin and Bailey Ziegler consulted with each other to bring a chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance to campus. Ziegler learned about the Alliance through the Project for Awesome, an organization for various charities, including the promotion of literacy. Martin, an English major and president of the English Club, noted that S.P.E.W. for B.U. (appropriately named after the house elf organization from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) finally came to fruition in Fall 2014, after “countless meetings, stacks of paperwork, and dozens of emails between me, Dr. Annette Sisson, and Dr. Sara Stacy.” Soon after, the S.P.E.W. quest to promote literacy in the Nashville community began.

The organization operates through Book ‘Em, a local nonprofit that collects gently used and new books and delivers them to schools in need. Martin has been doing work at the Bordeaux Early Learning Center, after a friend of Dr. Sisson’s reached out to them to help. The preschool only had 50 books in their collection, which, to my surprise, is common in local schools. According to Martin, the organization is sending all Pre-K and board books to Bordeaux, and books for children between ages 5 and 17 to Book ‘Em. Everything else will be sent to the Nashville Public Library for their main collection, as well as for fundraising purposes.

“This is our first campaign on our own,” says Martin. “We were just improved in the middle of last semester so we haven’t had a lot of time to put ourselves out there.” In asking her about the best way to get the word out, she said that the best way to raise awareness was really just to talk about the problem. “Word-of-mouth is the most powerful tool in a university setting,” Martin says, and she’s right. With all of the social media outlets at our disposal on a daily basis, it should be simple to get the word out on something like this. Anyone can help simply by giving the books that they don’t read anymore to those who need them, children and adults alike. “Can you imagine how many books we would be able to donate if everyone gave just one?” Martin asked. It is certainly worth thinking about.

Martin plans to do the project again next year when the 2016 Accio Books! Campaign kicks off. This will be Martin’s last year at Belmont, and she hopes to get the word out and recruit some new members that are as passionate about the project as she is, in order to keep the organization going. “We have another year,” Martin says, “and we plan to do some big things coming this fall to get the word out and get people excited about S.P.E.W. at B.U.”

Jessica Martin