Lena Harris, Summer 2013 Book Harvest intern
As a child I LOVED to read. My parents did a great job of encouraging a reading culture in our family. My mom read so much to me when I was a baby that to this day if you ask her, she can quote “One Fish, Two Fish,” several pages at a time. When I and my siblings were younger she
would take us to the library to pick out books; my favorites at the time were those that came with read-along cassette tapes. As I got a little older, my parents put a bookshelf in my room and we began to fill it with used books from secondhand shops. This, to me, was a great invention, because it allowed me to reread my favorites as often as I wanted. I very distinctly remember curling up in a very small nook in our home where no one could fit but me -since I was the smallest- and reading book after book. I read every Dr. Seuss book I could get my hands on and then moved on to “Tillie and Mert,” “Tikki Tikki Tembo,” “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” and the list goes on.
This continued on for several years, and with each passing year I tackled more difficult material. Then, somewhere along the way I stopped. I’m not sure if it came as a result of all of the required reading that I was given in school, the fact that I had outgrown my reading nook (literally), or some combination of both. I guess I had inadvertently adopted the idea that after a long (school) day’s work the only proper thing to do was rest, which is a polite term for vegetate.
Then came Book Harvest. The entire summer has felt like I’ve been shaking off the cob webs and becoming reacquainted with two of my first loves: books and reading. Every day I was surrounded by brilliant, kind hearted people who are genuinely committed to the task of getting books into the hands of children who need them. I’ve seen the power that a few individuals can muster when paired with a strong community backing. I felt welcomed from the minute I walked in the door, and I am so grateful for the attentiveness that was shown as I crafted summer goals that would successfully meld with my larger personal and career goals. In a few short months I’ve had the opportunity to participate in meetings with funders, board members, volunteers, and the occasional county commissioner and in each of these instances I was not expected to simply be a fly on the wall; I could contribute when I had ideas, too.
As amazing as these macro experiences were, the direct interactions with the community were equally as memorable. One of my favorite stories to tell actually occurred on the first or second day of my internship. I was helping to staff a Books on Break event and while looking through the boxes I came across a book from the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, and not knowing what I was setting myself up for, I casually shouted “does anyone want ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’?” Little did I know that such a simple phrase would cause so much excitement from the class. Seriously, you would have thought I held up a $50 bill and said, “Does anyone want this?” This stuck with me because it really drives home the point that not only do kids need to read, they want to read! When you manage to find the series that a child has checked every table and box for, the light in their eyes does not appear because they are thinking about increases in their lexile measure, or the additional years of school they are likely to complete as a result of continued reading; they are just happy to they got the book they wanted. It then becomes our responsibility to be aware of the statistics, note the available solutions, fill in the gaps and strengthen what exists, and most importantly, empower these children with a sense of ownership and a vested interest in their educational development. Book Harvest has reminded me of the rejuvenating quality of a good book, and that is something I intend to continue sharing long after this internship experience is over.