How do you honor a classmate and friend you lost suddenly in sixth grade? Each March, Brooke’s middle school was decorated with purple hearts and balloons on her birthday. Students performed random acts of kindness as they remembered their sweet friend. But as middle school drew to a close, they wanted to find a way to remember her for years to come. In 2018, Brooke’s English Language Arts teacher, Olivia Wakida, helped her friends, now 8th graders, create an event to remember Brooke on her birthday. Brooke had many passions, but her friends wanted something to help others for years to come. They also knew how much Brooke loved books, so it became quite clear that a book drive to help schools less fortunate than theirs would be something meaningful and sustainable. “Brooke’s Books!” shouted one of her closest friends. The name stuck, and they got to work immediately.
In March 2018, Palos Verdes Intermediate School students collected over 3,000 books to help a school on a reservation in Arizona. The books came from everywhere: her elementary school and her dance studio, from people who knew Brooke and people who came to know her through the stories we continue to tell of a girl who was kind to all, who made us laugh and who made us feel loved.
In March 2019, The Randle family picked up the reins for the second annual Brooke’s Books. The recipient: Rawson STEAM Elementary School in Hartford, Connecticut. Second grade teacher, Lindy Evans, is a close college friend of Brooke’s mom. Budgetary cuts have made it challenging for teachers to adequately stock classroom libraries. From North Carolina, Brooke’s mom, dad, brother and sister asked family and friends to send gift cards and monetary donations. From neighboring Glastonbury, Connecticut, Brooke’s aunt, uncle and cousins asked friends and neighbors to drop off used books.
While the books are still being sorted by grade and reading level, it’s estimated that over 500 books have been collected so far with more still arriving. The school will engage the 5th grade class to help sort the books and create an all-school free book fair in early May, where teachers can select the books they need for their own classroom libraries. After that, all students will be invited to select a free book to take home. Ms. Evans also plans to use the gift cards and monetary funds to purchase new books to complete the classroom libraries based on the books she still needs.
The Randle Family is grateful for the continued love and support for Brooke and her love of reading. Brooke was always about helping others, being kind and sharing her favorite stories. She also loved to write and draw. One day, her mom and siblings plan to create a children’s book using her stories and drawings as the basis for a wonderful tale of a girl who will continue to inspire others for years to come.
For more information about Brooke’s Books, contact her mom, Sandi Randle