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,
and share with the students at Vandalia. The celebration included a presentation, a read aloud, balloons, and cake.
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.
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!
Sonja Grant, a lead anchor on WCNC TV offered the closing remarks to the student body.
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!
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
Simplicity Clients and the Charlotte Community