‘Reading buddies’ and Community Bookshelf most recent projects of Ainsley Grant, Girl Scout extraordinaire

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Lansing teen on track to earn Gold Award, greatest Girl Scout honor

By Katie Arvia

LANSING, Ill. (September 30, 2022) – Since its founding in 1912, the Girl Scouts have been making a lasting impact on its members and their communities, and Lansing is no exception. For more than a decade, Lansing resident Ainsley Grant has been a member of the Girl Scouts. Now in her twelfth year with the organization, Grant is on track to receive her Gold Award, the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn.

Only 5.4% of eligible Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award. To be eligible, Senior and Ambassador-level members must “find an issue in [their] community or the world that [they] care about,” and put forth a plan to improve the problem. Each project requires at least 80 hours’ worth of work and planning and must be approved by the individual’s Girl Scout council.

Grant is currently an Ambassador, the highest rank a Girl Scout can achieve. She has chosen a focus for her Gold Award project: instilling a love of reading in local students. Her plan involves providing literary resources to Lansing residents of all ages.

Community Bookshelf (ribbon-cutting scheduled for October 2)

Grant began by setting up a Community Bookshelf at First Christian Church in Lansing (2921 Ridge Road). She picked that location because the church also hosts the Community Closet of Steger, which allows residents to donate clothing so people in need can come in and take whatever they need.

“The Community Closet is a ‘closet,’ so of course it’s more geared towards clothing, but they also get a lot of books that are donated. They had a ‘book-a-palooza’ because they get all these books. … I already had an inkling of the idea for my Gold Award, but that just kind of helped bring everything together,” Grant said.

“We have [the Community Bookshelf] set up out there, so they have somewhere to put those books,” explained Grant. “Also, it’s more accessible. It’s in a really good spot because it’s equidistant from the high school and the middle school.”

Ainsley Grant (right) stands with Laura Hensley near the newly completed Community Bookshelf. “[Laura] has helped me so much along the way,” said Grant. “I could not be more thankful for her help and support.” (Photo provided)
Grant’s Community Bookshelf is already in use, but an official ribbon-cutting is planned for Sunday, October 2, at 12:30 p.m. “We just want to do a little something to open it up for the public,” said Hensley, who helped organize the ceremony. The public is invited to attend the ribbon-cutting and learn more about the Community Bookshelf and the work Ainsley Grant is doing in Lansing.

Making “reading buddies”

Grant has other ideas for getting people to love reading. A junior at TF South High School, she said she noticed that a lot of her classmates were frustrated with learning, and they are weary from the hassle of e-learning for so long. As reading often gets lumped in with school-related work, many students do not enjoy reading in their free time.

“I think reading doesn’t have to be connected to school. You can just have fun with it,” Grant said. “I really wanted to push the fun side of reading and show how enjoyable it is. I really wanted to help get that out, and I thought the best way to do that was to go in to one of the elementary schools and work with the kids to help them develop their love of reading.”

Grant creates hand-sewn “reading buddies” that are distributed to students at her alma mater Calvin Coolidge Elementary School. She plans on making 100, one for each student that she will be reading with in five different classes at Coolidge. Each student will also receive a book to take home and keep; Grant said that many of these books were provided by Mary DiGrispino, her project advisor and friend of many years. Each Wednesday after school, Grant reads a new story to the students and makes crafts with them to help demonstrate the joy of reading.

Ainsley Grant
Ainsley Grant holds the first batch of reading buddies she created for Mrs. Ranger’s kindergarten class. Each student will also receive a book to keep, many of which were provided by Mary DiGrispino: “Without her support and kindness, I would not be where I am today,” Grant said. (Photo provided)
Ainsley Grant
Ainsley Grant with Mrs. Ranger and her class on the first day of story time. Grant read Frog on a Log by Kes Gray and Jim Field. Afterward she made frog masks with the students as their weekly craft. (Photo provided)

Past awards

Grant has been in the Girl Scouts for 12 years, and her Gold Award projects aren’t the only ways she has benefitted the residents of Lansing. Previously, she completed her Bronze and Silver Awards volunteering with other troop members. For the Bronze Award, she and troop-mates created first aid kits for a fair at Coolidge.

For the Silver Award, Grant said, “We went to the St. Anthony of Lansing senior living home, and we worked with the residents. We played games with them; we played bingo with them, and we just had a lot of fun, especially around the holidays, because a lot of [residents] don’t have family, and they need someone to connect to.”

Community connections

As far as connections go, Grant said the Girl Scouts is an amazing place to connect with other people, and she cites the sense of community as her favorite part of the organization.

“I love having these friends. It’s wonderful that we get to bond over activities. We’re helping the community; we’re helping each other,” Grant said. “With Girl Scouts, you meet all together outside of school, outside of all of those distractions, and you just get to work together and have fun together. I think that’s wonderful.”

She said that she will be a Girl Scout for life, as there is no age cut-off. She was initially signed up for Girl Scouts by her mother, Heather. In fact, her mother is her troop leader. Being a Scout has allowed Grant to see a different side of her mom in a different setting.

“It’s very inspirational,” Grant said. “I would love to be that kind of inspiration for other people.”

To meet Ainsley Grant and learn more about her projects in the community, the public is invited to attend the ribbon-cutting for the Community Bookshelf she has installed:

  • Sunday, October 2, 12:30 p.m.
  • First Christian Church, 2921 Ridge Road (corner of Ridge Road and Ridgewood Avenue)

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Katie is a lifelong Lansing native who currently works full-time in marketing while also freelance reporting for The Lansing Journal. In 2015, she graduated with high honors from Saint Xavier University in Chicago with a BA in English, and she plans to pursue a Master's degree in the near future. Her favorite Lansing Journal assignments include coverage of TF South High School's walkout ("Demonstrating the possibilities") and her St. Patrick's Day interview with her grandma ("St. Patrick's Day traditions: reflections of an Irish granddaughter").