Simplicity Serves: 7,680 Books and the Love of Reading!


Reading Tree

In March, I received an email from my mom, a reading specialist at a Title 1 school in Greensboro, letting me know about a request from the NC Department of Instruction asking communities to donate five gently used or new books to Title 1 schools.

Reading is a life skill and it is unfortunate that during the summer months, many students lose valuable literacy skills when they stop reading during their break from school.

According to the NC Department of Instruction, children from low-income families fall behind over the summer because they often go home to an environment where there are very few books or other reading resources. As a result, by the end of fifth grade, these students are approximately 2 ½ years behind their more affluent peers in terms of reading ability, primarily because of summer loss.  Summer reading loss negatively impacts our struggling readers, and ultimately our entire community.

I knew immediately this would be a perfect initiative for Simplicity!

I presented the idea of a book drive at our monthly team meeting and it was received with great excitement. We brainstormed ways to help spread the word about this promotion and set a goal to collect 1,000 books.  As we help our clients purge and organize their homes, large quantities of unwanted items accumulate, including children’s books.  Our clients have a much easier time letting go of their belongings when they know they are going to a deserving cause.

Since my mom’s birthday was a few weeks away, I contacted her school, Vandalia Elementary, and asked the principal her thoughts about throwing a surprise reading celebration-to not only celebrate my mom’s birthday and her 17 years of teaching reading, but more importantly to celebrate the joy of reading by giving each student a book.  Vandalia was thrilled with the idea and so our book drive began!

Shortly after, WCNC asked us to join Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway to promote organizing tips for children and share the news about our book drive.


As we began to promote the book collection, Alison Houser with Augustine Literacy Project contacted us to see if they could help.   She asked if we had chosen a school in the Charlotte area to receive the books.  I shared with her about our surprise donation to Vandalia with the first 1,000 books, but anything after that could be donated to another school in Charlotte.

Alison had just been in a meeting with Sedgefield Elementary and the principal said they were looking for help from the community to provide each child with five books to take home for the summer.   So it was an easy decision to donate any extra books to Sedgefield.

For convenience, several of my team members offered their homes as drop off locations throughout the city. Word spread quickly and the books began arriving.  It was the perfect time to clean off bookshelves before summer started.

Soon after we were invited to join John Carter on WBTV!

And the books kept coming!

Augustine Literacy volunteers helped us sort over a thousand books by grade level.

On April 9th, I drove with 1,ooo books to Greensboro to surprise my mom,

Surprising Mom

and share with the students at Vandalia. The celebration included a presentation, a read aloud, balloons, and cake.

Vandalia Book Celebration

With the support of other Greensboro community members and friends, 1,680 books were donated to Vandalia, allowing each child to take home 6 books for the summer.

Laurie reading

Laurie's Mom w Books


Vandalia Kids w books

 Reading Celebration

On June 10th, it was time to celebrate reading at Sedgefield Elementary! Thanks to the support of the Charlotte community, we were a part of the book drive that collected over 6,000 books for Sedgefield!

Sedgefield Elementary Celebration

Sonja Grant, a lead anchor on WCNC TV offered the closing remarks to the student body.

Sonia Grant speaking

What an incredible journey of collecting books!  Our original goal was to collect 1,000 children’s books, but with such wonderful support from both the Charlotte and Greensboro communities, we were able to help collect almost 8,000 books for two Title 1 schools!

As your children grow as readers, and the new school year is beginning, please consider making more room on your bookshelves by donating any lower level children’s books to Title 1 schools.  With your generous donations, we can help prevent summer reading loss.

Reading is such a critical life skill! Let’s continue to support this initiative and share our love of reading!

Elementary Kids with donated books

Special Thanks:

Alison Houser and Laura Freeman, Augustine Literacy Project

Kimberly Robertson and Dawn Amundson, Vandalia Elementary

Ivy Gill and Sophia Crawford, Sedgefield Elementary 

Ramona Holloway, Colleen Odegaard, Larry Sprinkle, and Sonja Gantt, WCNC TV

Brennan Shearer, Promising Pages

Crystal O’Gorman, Freelance writer for the Charlotte Observer

NC Department of Instruction

Simplicity Clients and the Charlotte Community


College Bound

You did it!

You’re off to college and starting a new chapter in life!

So how do you get off on the right foot?

College Bound

Here are a few tips for an organized start to your journey.

You will be in an unfamiliar place populated with strangers.  Don’t panic. Campus will soon feel like home and those strangers will become lifelong friends.  Your class schedule will bear little resemblance to the one from high school.  Classrooms can range far afield, especially on a big campus.  And you’re responsible for getting to class ON TIME! YIKES!  Leave extra early for the first few weeks of the semester to get the hang of your various routes. Some classes will be back-to-back, requiring extreme speed walking with no time for conversations if you are to be on time. Even if you have your schedule in your phone calendar, a paper copy that’s easily accessible is a good backup. Print a small version of your schedule with class locations and tape it to the back of your phone or laminate it and keep in it your backpack.

DON’T SKIP CLASS! Cutting class really hurts not only your grades and your level of motivation, but also your rapport with professors. And don’t think for a minute that most professors don’t know or care if you’re present.  Even if you’re going to a big school with huge lectures, you need to be present- no matter how late you were up the night before. You never know what key piece of information you might miss.

An organized home supports an organized life. Since the dorm will be your new home, here are some tips to keep it organized:

  • Communicate with your roommate before moving into the dorm. You will save space and money if you know who is bringing what- you don’t need two of everything.
  • If you are planning on going home before the season changes, leave most of your winter clothing at home.  There will be very little storage space in the dorm.  As fall arrives, you can do the wardrobe swap.
  • Find a place to study that works for you. The library is quiet and has all the resources you need for research. If you study in your dorm, keep your workspace clear with only necessary books, notes and writing implements accessible.  Turn your phone off and settle in with the books.
  • Keep cooking and eating utensils to a bare minimum. You’re not going to be attempting to replicate mom’s home cooking!
  • Label, label, label! Living in close quarters, you’ll likely be sharing- with or without permission. Labeling what’s yours helps you keep what’s yours!without permission. Labeling what’s yours helps you keep what’s yours!

A final note…

Always: ask questions, seek help, stay true to yourself, keep in close touch with your family, work hard, and HAVE FUN!

Simplicity’s Top Recommended College Organizational Supplies:

1)         Under the bed storage containers: Great for storing infrequently worn clothes.

Under bed storage

2)        Bed risers: Raise your bed so you have more storage underneath.

Bed risers

3)         Uniform hangers-Slimline hangers are great for girl’s clothes, but as long as the hangers are durable and all look the same-that’s all that matters. Swivel hooks make it easier.

Slimline hangers

4)        Drawer dividers for dressers and desks.

Dream Drawer Organizers


Drawer organizers

5)        3M hooks-Damage free ways to organize and decorate your college dorm.

Command 3M Hooks

6)        A shower caddy to keep your belongings together and organized!

Shower Caddy