By Daniele Berman, Operations Manager
If you’re familiar with Book Harvest, it’s likely you’re familiar with our programs for young children: our Book Babies program encourages kindergarten readiness by helping Medicaid-eligible families build home libraries for their children from birth all the way until they start school, and our Books on Break program combats “summer slide” by ensuring that elementary school children from low-income families have a new backpack full of books to read each summer and keep forever. But did you know that we provide books to middle and high school students, too? Thanks to the evergreen generosity of our book donors, we have thousands and thousands of excellent quality books for older readers, and we piloted a new program last month that we hope will become one of our main mechanisms for getting those books into the hands and homes of children who need them.
On August 14 and 15, we held our first ever BOOKS TO GO for Tweens and Teens event. Roughly mimicking the Books on Break model of a pop-up bookshop, we filled our volunteer workspace with over 11,000 books for middle and high school students, and we invited educators and nonprofit partners in Durham and Orange counties who work with tweens and teens from low-income families to come choose books to take back to their schools and organizations and give away to their kids. Since professionals in the field know best what their middle and high school students want to read, the most effective way for Book Harvest to reach the most children in these age groups is through the professionals already interacting with them on a regular basis. These professionals were invited to choose books their students would enjoy and to distribute them in the most effective way for their setting.
Over the course of the six-hour distribution, 32 excited attendees selected 5,226 books to distribute to the kids they serve!
We asked attendees to share with us their plans for distributing the books. They varied widely: from giveaways at orientation or the first day of school to classroom book clubs and free bookshelves to prizes for raffles and accomplishments, all had big plans for the best ways to give the books to the kids who needed them. “The kids were SO excited to learn that the books they chose were theirs FOR KEEPS!” shared one educator after completing her distribution.
Based on the success of this pilot program and the feedback from attendees, we plan to schedule additional BOOKS TO GO for Tweens and Teens distributions at other times during the year. We’re excited to have this new way to reach kids in our community with all the wonderful resources we have to offer!