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Emma Laughter gives the gift of reading

Emma Laughter stands with some of the students that received books to take home with them over summer. Emma Laughter stands with some of the students that received books to take home with them over summer.

Thanks to Emma Laughter, kids at Bruce Drysdale Elementary School have plenty of reading material.

Laughter, 17, a rising senior at Hendersonville High School began the book drive after research findings from a paper she wrote junior year, showed a correlation between education and poverty: the poor students had lower reading testing scores than their peers that were well-off. She collected more than 2,500 books.
“Kids who come from a poverty background have a harder time thriving in school in general,” Laughter says. In particular, literacy rates suffer the most.
Laughter was surprised when she found out how many students were struggling at Bruce Drysdale Elementary, where her father, BJ Laughter, is principal. Students lacked the opportunity to buy the tools necessary and vital to their learning, and they were facing the consequences.
“It opened up my eyes to how much those kids do struggle,” she said of the students at Bruce Drysdale. “It’s probably the poorest school in Henderson County. Their free and reduced lunch rate is 82 percent, which is very high.”
EmmaLaughter8EmmacLaughter is surrounded by books.Dissatisfied with her research findings, and being closely connected through Bruce Drysdale by her father, she set up containers in the main office at the school in May, hoping to collect any number of books that she could in order to send them home with students in the summer. In the first round of collection, community members, parents and teachers helped Laughter collect more than 1,000 books for a reading camp for Bruce Drysdale students with low reading test scores.
“We’re excited for her to have raised that many books for us to give to kids,” Laughter says of his daughter. “We want to make reading fun and spark the kids’ interests in different subjects. … It surprised me how many books she was able to collect. She used our school messenger and did an all-call and used social media. It started out slow but the word got out and it’s still continuing.”
“It really wasn’t a complicated process,” Emma says. The drive was so popular, that a second round of donation generated another 1,000 books and is still going. “People keep bringing books in,” she adds. The newly collected books will be distributed at Green Meadows Night, on Oct. 12, where Bruce Drysdale will provide books, food and education about the importance of literacy to one of the largest communities that it educates, BJ Laughter says.
The children’s book drive allows students who can’t afford books of their own to practice reading at home.
“Reading at home is important to becoming a fluent reader, and so many kids don’t have access to books at home,” BJ Laughter explains. “A lot of kids have told me that they’ve never had a book read to them at home. The goal is to try to get books into the homes of these kids because a lot of them don’t have the resources.”
Laughter plans to continue the drive throughout her senior year and will incorporate her love of books into her senior project at HHS.
The book drive’s success has been noticed by teachers and students alike. “Teachers at the school have said how much of an impact it’s making,” she says. “When I went to reading camp, the students were just so excited to be getting books and so thankful.”