The Spitfire Club is committed to their goal of nurturing each girl’s love of reading and love of self.
(Photos: The Spitfire Club)Alexandria, VA – One of the fastest growing groups in town these days is the Spitfire Club in Alexandria, an extracurricular book club for girls with a curriculum based on a carefully selected collection of children’s books featuring strong, diverse, female protagonists.
Executive Director Amanda Hazelwood founded the Spitfire Club in 2017 but not without challenges saying, “I had been sitting on this idea forever but it’s hard to leave paid work to start something and I wasn’t quite in a position yet to launch Spitfire yet. I was working on a volunteer playground project with Lucresha Murphy at the Recreation Division and she asked me what I was doing when I wasn’t working on the parks and I told her about this idea for a non-profit that I’m supposed to be launching but I’m 30 weeks pregnant! She said, “I think the Recreation Department would like this program,” and I said, “Really?” and she said, ‘I think we should try it.” So, at 35 weeks pregnant we launched our very first Spitfire Club.”
Since 2017, they’ve served over 200 unique kids and were the recipient of ACT for Alexandria’s capacity building grants this past year, using those funds to work with a diversity consultant to ensure that the Spitfire Club is operating with a strong orientation toward racial equity, inclusion, and liberation. “It was so timely. One of the things we’ve been doing as a result of ACT investing in us is analyzing our organization. We say that we are committed to anti-racism but how does that actually work in our work? We’re reevaluating how we measure our work,” she adds.
Historically speaking, white men and boy characters have been far more represented than women and girls, and particularly women and girls of color in children’s literature, so, to counter that, Spitfire builds a fun, engaging learning experience for girls around diverse female protagonists that embody the Spitfire values of curiosity, resilience, empathy, authenticity, and tenacity.
Prior to the pandemic, Spitfire partnered with organizations like The Alexandria Recreation Division, Duncan Library, Community Lodgings and others around the City to offer weekly small group learning experiences for their girls. Hazelwood says, “We have organically grown with organizations all over the city.”
The Spitfire Club has a goal to reach 2000 unique kids by 2025, which Hazelwood thinks is attainable thanks to the wide offerings of the programs. “We are so accessible. We pack materials with everything you need right down to the pencils. Plus books for kids to keep at home because access to books is so reduced right now and if kids don’t have access to new books to read they won’t be excited to read and if they’re not excited to read, they’re not going to do it. And we deliver all that to participants.” Hazelwood relays.
With Covid-19, the Club had to make adjustments to serve their participants. They started producing read-alouds on YouTube for people to watch. “While it’s not as interactive, because they don’t have the materials in front of them, I didn’t want us to stop working with the kids. We started building online programming on Zoom for this summer right after the 4th of July for 53 girls from all over the city and a couple kids outside the city. Meeting online has been able to give us a broader reach and more accessibility in ways we hadn’t anticipated. Our youngest girl was in preschool going into kindergarten and our oldest girls were going into the 5th grade,” explained Hazlewood.
“It’s so rewarding to get feedback on the impact we make. One parent recently shared “It’s sad the girls can’t be together, however it was very beneficial to virtually be together, do projects together and discuss topics that were current and happening now in a way the girls can understand. I love this program!”
For more information on The Spitfire Club visit www.thespitfireclub.org.