Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Read ‘n Quilt: A Literacy Night at Winston

By Maureen Dizon, corps member serving at Winston Education Campus

It all started with Team Winston’s resident bibliophile (and aptly, our Literacy Coordinator), Jon Ragsdale, spouting off ideas about a children’s story, free books, and quilting materials. With a few phone calls to local quilting guilds, our small office was suddenly overtaken by seemingly bottomless bags of fabric and boxes chock-full of books for students from Pre-Kindergarten to high school. We had a Read ‘n Quilt to plan, after all.
Winston’s first ever Literacy Night was inspired by two books: Lauren Mills’ The Rag Coat and The Tortilla Quilt, by Jane Tenorio-Coscarelli. At their core, these two books are about families and communities finding solidarity and compassion through shared stories. It is this sense of community, through activities such as reading and quilting, which Team Winston sought to impart on participants during the event.

Preparation and planning for such a milestone event was not easy. Although donations for food and beverages came rather easily, as did all our gifts- in-kind materials, thanks to the generosity of avid quilters in the D.C. metro area, we did not know how to go about actually quilting. It was helpful to have two Winston team members with quilting experience, but we would have truly been at a loss without someone who proved to be a real champion: Jen Athanas is a fashion designer based in Virginia who came out to Winston for a prep day that turned into quite the learning experience. My teammates spent their afternoon cutting yards and yards of fabric, and discovering the proper tools and sizing necessary to undertake what we realized from the get-go would be a massive project.

The day of Read ‘n Quilt arrived with various responsibilities delegated to each corps member. We had two banners made using extra fabric, books displayed by grade level, tables set with all materials, refreshments in the cafeteria, and music. What completed this vision were students and their parents arriving together, sitting down, and getting crafty with different designs. We had a photographer, a videographer, Jen, who came out to assist us again, twice the number of parents who attended Back-to-School Night, a principal who was positively beaming, and students who were so eager to get free books, we had to send them back to their seats and put a limit on how many books they could take so that every student got at least one.

We had set out to decorate and design enough quilting squares to make three quilts: two to be donated to the nearby senior citizens’ center, and one to be displayed at Winston. I humbly admit that this event was wildly successful. Every cue-to-cue went smoothly, and this was due to the superb planning and organization on the part of everyone involved. I believe a big testament to the event’s success was the students’ calm quiescence while designing their quilting squares, followed by their uninhibited excitement at the prospect of getting books. As one 2nd grader left toting a backpack full of books with her father, she turned around and pointed at my teammate, Tiffany, and said, “Look, Dad, that’s my City Year.”


  1. I would like interview and go through the typical day of some members of City Year DC in hopes of writing an this possible?

  2. Hi Maquita. Thanks for your interest. I would love to discuss this further with you. Please send us an email at with regards to what you had in mind.