Edmonds educator leaves legacy of literacy




Posted on June 29, 2011 at 3:02 PM

EDMONDS, Wash. -- What Bonnie Campbell Hill has always loved best is the sound of little voices reading.

Bonnie served as a mentor for Donna Kearns at Lynnwood's Brighton School.

"She would come to our school with a huge stack of brand new books. 'Have you seen these? These are the new books right now!' And we'd get all excited about it," said Kearns.

Bonnie started as an elementary school teacher in Colorado and Seattle, but had a global vision. She focused on how to best teach kids to read and assess their learning in the classroom. She published nine books that are standard reading for teachers across the country, and started taking trips to developing countries, working with schools and governments to help kids, especially girls, learn to read. 

"It's had a huge impact on the trajectory of a country as it develops," said Bonnie's daughter Laura. "The most important place to start is a girl's education. If you teach a girl to read, she'll teach her children."

Everywhere she went, Bonnie taught teachers, brought books and inspired students. But last October she was diagnosed with liver cancer.

Bonnie knew her life on Earth was limited. So, she decided to embark on one of her most ambitious projects yet: raise $500,000 for literacy projects in the third world.

Kids from Lynnwood to Dubai started raising money through read-a-thons. They called it "Bonnie's Big Idea."

"I get to go to a great school," said Emma Bonifazi, a Brighton School seventh grader. "This is a big thing because those girls that can't go to school, it must be so hard because it's just like being completely excluded."

They raised that $500,000 in just six months.

"It's amazing," says Laura.

Organizers topped the goal last week. Bonnie died just a few days later at 56-years-old. But her legacy lives in countless classrooms, with every turn of a page, in and the next generation of "big ideas."


Bonnie's colleagues have vowed to keep her mission alive. You can find out more by going to www.bonniesbigidea.com.

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