Reading a good book on a cold winter’s night is a luxury that most of us take for granted. We learned the fundamentals from our parents and grade school teachers decades ago. Whether we enjoy the works of Chaucer, Crichton or pieces on TMZ’s website, knowing how to read unlocked the skills needed to learn about everything from science to history to even Hogwarts Academy.
Retired District 204 Reading Specialist Katie DeSotell unlocked this passion in her students for over 30 years, especially those that found reading challenging and tedious.
“The challenge for kids who were struggling was to get them to believe they could do it,” she recalled. “Kids that struggle really don’t have a lot of confidence. So it was really important to give them lots of easy material in the beginning so that they could believe in themselves.
“And then it was to connect them (students) with books they liked, because there is something out there for everybody.”
One of her favorite books is E.B. White’s classic Charlotte’s Web because it “is an inspiring story that teaches friendship and loyalty.”
Although no longer in the classroom, she continues to advocate for both children on the west side of Aurora and those in developing countries, such as Tanzania and Haiti.
“I (want) kids to have the best possible chance,” Katie said.
It was this effort to fight for literacy access for underprivileged children that motivated Marketing Associate Tami McQueen to nominate Katie, a Member since 1985, to be an Inspiring Member.
“I was really tickled that someone acknowledged some of the things that I have done,” Katie said with a humble smile and a slight chuckle in her voice. “Thank you, DuPage Credit Union.”
As part of our yearlong 60th Anniversary celebration, each quarter DuPage Credit Union Team Members submit the names of Members who have inspired and energized them. President Diane Shelton then selects the name of one Member whose dedication, advocacy or warm personality embodies the Credit Union’s common spirit.
“She’s made such a difference in the lives she has touched, whether she realizes it or not,” McQueen said. “Her actions have brought attention to the disparity of library services in Aurora, especially for those kids whose parents might be unable to drive them across town for free and timely access to books.”
This past year, both the West Aurora School District and the Aurora Public Library were going to cut library services and hours. Katie made her opinions known by speaking up at Board Meetings, meeting with the local press and spreading the word to anyone and everyone who would listen.
“That became my passion this past year,” she said. “It’s almost like the fourth-grader is going to write a report and goes to the school library and there is no one there to direct him. And then his library was going to be closed at night, when maybe his parents could take him to the library…kind of like, ‘carry on everyone.’ It was the wrong message to give to students and teachers.”
Due to her efforts and those like her, local students did not lose countless opportunities to use the libraries’ resources to improve academically and further encourage a lifelong love of reading.
When not advocating for kids in the community, she has traveled to Africa and the Caribbean to assist kids in poverty-stricken lands. “There is a beauty and happiness that generates from the children,” she said. “It’s very sincere.”
While in Tanzania, Katie spent two weeks at an orphanage at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro teaching songs, finger plays and of course literacy. “The little ones didn’t even know how to handle a book,” she recalled with mist in her eyes. “It was really an eye-opening experience…I made special connections.”
She continues to help raise funds and awareness for children outside the U.S. by selling jewelry made by their parents, raising money for school uniforms and gathering friends for packing initiatives at Feed My Starving Children – most recently after Haiti was ravaged by Hurricane Matthew.
As the Credit Union’s 4th Quarter Inspiring Member, Katie was awarded a $160 Visa® Gift Card for herself and a $60 gift card to Pay It Forward. Katie donated her pay it forward gift card to the Dominican Literacy Center in Aurora, which teaches English Language Learning adults conversation, reading and writing skills.
“Her kind spirit has inspired those who know her to give of their time, talent and treasure to better the lives of others,” added McQueen.