Background by Founder
My name is Vonda Dahl and I am the Literacy Coordinator for Mandan Public Schools in Mandan, North Dakota. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when the idea for Project Armchair first popped into my brain. I do know that a few weeks into the 2015 school year, I became aware that a homeless shelter for families was just blocks from my new school, where I was a reading interventionist, and that several of our students were living there.
I could not stop thinking about that or about what I might do to help. I eventually dawned on me that as a reading specialist, I could read to kids, possibly help them with their reading skills, and in the process, offer the gift of getting lost in a really good story.
But hearing a story is only half the magic. Why not gift the book to them as well? Any teacher of reading knows that good readers get there by practice, practice, and more practice. And so, with the purchase of $170 in Scholastic books, I walked through the doors of the Welcome House homeless shelter and began a journey that would introduce me to people that I am honored to know and taken me on paths I could not have predicted.
Mason Cooley said that, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” It is my hope that the books our volunteers place into the hands of precious children in challenging circumstances will give them a moment of joy and a measure of courage.
Created by art teacher Ali Hein
When Founder Vonda Dahl first envisioned Project Armchair, she wrote the very image that encapsulated what she would strive for the children to feel:
"The sun streams through tall windows in yellow shafts of warmth. The room is quiet, save for the gentle tick of the mantle clock, and speckles of golden dust float noiselessly in the vacuum sound. The chair is massive, soft, and well-worn; like the hug of an old, fuzzy bear. A child is there, lost in the hug of the chair, mesmerized by the hush of the sanctuary. The book in his lap is a portal to another universe. One without pain, fear, or uncertainty. The child in the enormous chair does not hear the tick of the clock or see the golden specks that float aorund his head. He is only cognizant of the place he has entered through The Portal. His heart is light and his world at peace. For this magic, sacred moment, all is well."
The volunteer educators of Project Armchair are dedicated to serving the hospitalized and homeless children of our community by reading aloud rich children’s literature to children in crisis. Certified teacher volunteers encourage literacy engagement through choice of text (where applicable), model fluent reading, employ simple cognitive strategies, and gift the book to the child, so that the literacy experience may be replicated. It is the goal of Project Armchair to give children in crisis a reprieve from their crisis through the magic of the literacy journey.
More about us
Project Armchair currently has 20+ volunteers - all educators - reading almost daily to children in our community and have given away over 2,0000 donated books. We serve the children in local homeless and domestic violence shelters in our area and the pediatric floor of our local hospital.
Project Armchair relies entirely on donations to keep placing books into the hands of children in crisis in the Bismarck/Mandan communities. We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization and donations are tax deductible. You can donate in two ways. Click on the “Get Involved” tab to donate funds through our website. You can also hold a book drive for us. Donated books must be NEW. You can find a list of suggested titles under our “Wish List” tab or donate your favorite titles. Thanks in advance for helping support the work of Project Armchair!