I finally heard from Jen!


Dear DEMI,

Thank you for writing me. I loved the book too! I think it’s awesome that we have a lot of stuff in common. You are like the twin I never had! I played guitar for about 2 mos. and then I quit because it was hurting my fingers. How did you get used to the guitar strings without them hurting you?

Miguel wanted his aunt to be top secret because he was embarrassed of the way she dressed. Miguel ended up realizing that is doesn’t matter what you look like, you still love that person even if they embarrass you.

In the beginning of the book he is shy and doesn’t really know what to do with his aunt. Then as he gets to know her better he likes her craziness. Tia Lola definitely helped Miguel.

I think she was like a child because when she was planting the garden she used her heels to make zigzags and that was funny. She was like a mother because she would always tell them bedtime stories.

She did set a good example for the kids because she was nice to people and everybody loved her.

Miguel realized that his aunt was not magical and he grew closer to her.

It was good for Miguel to learn Spanish so that he could talk to his family in the Dominican Republic.

What do you think of Miguel and Juanita’s relationship? Is it similar to you and your brother? It is not like my realtionship with my brothers because they are older and they like technology and I like listening to music.

We are choosing our new book. I chose “They’re Off, The Story of the Pony Express”.

I hope you are doing well in college. What college do you go to?



  On to the next book!

Haven’t found an organization your passionate about yet?

Text “DoSomething” to 38383 to get a text message once a week with suggestions on how to help your community.


According to DoSomething.org, here are the TOP 11 REASONS TO TAKE ACTION:


    1. To learn something about yourself.
    2. Maybe you’re like a pied-piper in disguise! Kids may ADORE you, but maybe you’ll only find that out after you spend an afternoon every week mentoring a youngster.

    3. To have fun!
    4. Volunteer doing something you love, and it will be amazing!

    5. Because you’re passionate about a cause.
    6. You always loved animals, so naturally you want to work at an animal hospital. Volunteer and be involved in something you really care about!

    7. To explore career possibilities.
    8. Maybe you’re heading to (or are already in) college or the ‘work world’. By volunteering at your local hospital you can find out if you’re interested in going into the medical field by studying to become a doctor or nurse. Experience is key!

    9. It’s time to get off the couch.
    10. From the time you get home ‘til the time you go to bed, you park your lazy @*$! in front of the TV. Honestly. You know you’re bored with it. Be productive for a change!!

    11. Learn some new skills…and add them to your resume!
    12. You can learn a ton from volunteering, and what a great way to add stuff to your resume for future jobs or college applications!

    13. To fulfill graduation requirements.
    14. Maybe you need to volunteer for 50 hours in order to graduate. Awesome! Get out there and volunteer your time (and who knows, maybe you’ll do extra hours because it’s so awesome!)

    15. Make someone else’s day.
    16. Your extra little effort to help someone or some organization out can make a world of a difference to them.

    17. Volunteering looks REALLY good on college applications.
    18. It’s ok, because we know the reason you want to go to an awesome college is so you can work at an awesome not-for-profit.

    19. Feel good about yourself!
    20. Know that, after volunteering, you did something great. Really great. Be proud of yourself. Heck, treat yourself to some ice cream.

    21. It’s time to DO SOMETHING!
    22. Apathy is boring.

Here’s your favorite Office star telling YOU to Do Something!


And now, we play the waiting game.

Now, it is my turn to wait for Jen’s letter. She will respond to my letter and will answer my thought-provoking questions. By the end of November, Jen will have responded and we will establish a more consistent pen-pal letter-writing system. I can’t wait to hear what Jen thinks about the book.

My only concern from this point on is whether or not I can commit the time to write Jen next semester. Originally I had signed up thinking that this was on a semester-basis, but the In2Books program hopes that pen-pals will commit to the entire 2011-2012 school year. I hope we can continue to discuss books on occasion because I really enjoyed this experience. Stay tuned to see if Jen writes me back and if I decide to keep in touch with her in the spring!

In the meantime, I beg you to stop reading my blog and to go take action! Get involved in your community and make a difference in someone’s life, just as I did for Jen! What a rewarding experience (and I got to read a children’s book)!

How did Tia Lola come to stay? I will tell you in my letter to Jen!

Dear Jen,

Thank you for being so patient with me! I am finally getting a chance to sit down and write to you and I am so excited about the book we just read! It was a wonderful novel! Before we begin discussing the book, I wanted to answer a few of your questions from your last letter. I have a relatively small family; it’s Mom, Dad, and my older brother, John. I do not have any pets, but I used to have a cute golden retriever! My hobbies including playing soccer, playing the guitar, and spending time with friends. I also love music! It sounds like we have a lot in common! Feel free to write me anytime and ask any more questions about me/the book!

I LOVED this book. At first I wasn’t sure that I would understand it because I don’t speak Spanish or understand Spanish traditions, but the story line was very easy to follow! There are few questions I am still thinking about. They are: Why did Miguel initially want Tia Lola to be top-secret and why/when did he change his mind? Also, how does his understanding of family change by the end of the book? I thought those were very important lessons to get out of the novel. Lastly, I loved the ways that Tia Lola brought her Dominican culture to Vermont! I think she really helped put life in perspective for Miguel and his sister. What do you think? Do you think Tia Lola’s character was more child-like or more motherly? Did she set a good example for the kids?

My favorite part was when Miguel and his sister realized how much they cared about Tia Lola when they lost her in New York City on page 77. That really showed how much Miguel valued family! Also, on page 50, I thought it was so funny when Miguel thought Tia Lola’s food brought good luck! Imagine if that was true! How did his realization (that she wasn’t just lucky) change his relationship with Tia Lola? What did this teach him about her culture? This was when Miguel realized that the Spanish culture was different than his own and that in order to communicate with Tia Lola, he needed to learn Spanish. I’m curious if you think that him learning Spanish was a good idea and how it changed their relationship!

Overall, it is clear that Tia Lola’s visit was beneficial to Miguel and his family. I’m so glad she decided to stay and make the most of her time in America.

I can’t wait to hear what you think about the book! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! Feel free to ask my any questions that you come up with while reading my letter!

Write back soon!

And the reading begins…

As I finish reading, Jen is just beginning to read How Tia Lola Came To Stay.

To-Do Timeline:

Nov 14 – Nov 18 = Finish reading the book
Nov 19 + 20 = Prepare thought-provoking questions and discussion prompts for Jen to respond to, in order to test her reading comprehension
Nov 25 = Jen finishes reading the book and responds to my questions
Nov 26 – on = Analysis of the program and evaluation of volunteer involvement in DC/MD/VA area (based on flyers collected, site visits, likes on facebook page, etc.)

I cannot believe my project is already coming to a close. I plan to continue to help Jen for as long as she needs my assistance. What a wonderful opportunity.

Remember, there are many opportunities for you to get involved too! Refer back to my first blog post for more information on educational non-profits.