Book Harvest recently gave thousands of books to a thrilled cohort of elementary-school students at a Books on Break event. The Friends of the Orange County Public Library was pleased to contribute to this annual event. Each student at New Hope Elementary School was invited to select ten books, which will help preserve the learning they accomplished during the school year. Teachers organized a book-distribution area that had the feel of a bookstore, with sections featuring Dr. Seuss, princess, and superhero books. “The students loved the variety of books available and were really eager to get started reading,” said Coby Austin, director of programs and policy at Family Success Alliance, an initiative of the Orange County Health Department.
Book Harvest is a Durham nonprofit organization that “provides books to children who need them and engages families and communities to promote children’s lifelong literacy and academic success.” Book Harvest has given away over 600,000 books, mostly in Durham County. The donated books help students avoid what is known as the “summer slide,” or the loss of valuable education during vacation. Studies have shown that students tend to lose reading skills during the summer months when they do not have access to resources like books.
One year ago, the Friends sponsored a smaller Books on Break distribution at New Hope Elementary as a pilot of this program in Orange County. Family Success Alliance teamed up with Book Harvest in selecting the school and organizing the event. The Friends provided a grant for books to be given to two grades, and students and their families raised additional funds.
This year, two members of the Friends Board of Directors, Harry Kavros and Steve Smith, volunteered to raise enough money to fund a book distribution for students in kindergarten through second grade. They met with town leaders and received valuable guidance from Hillsborough mayor Tom Stevens and Orange County School Board president Steven Halkiotis. Thanks to the generosity of local citizens, businesses, and nonprofits, over $8,000 was raised, comfortably surpassing the original goal of $6,000. The Friends of the Orange County Public Library again provided a significant grant. Students and their families raised funds so that third- through fifth-grade students would also receive ten books.
Support for the students does not end with giving them books. Family Success Alliance navigators will team up with dozens of families from New Hope Elementary over the summer. “They’ll be partnering with the parents to reinforce support for reading and other ways to prevent the summer slide,” explains Coby Austin.
Rachel Stine, education partnerships manager at Book Harvest, said that Books on Break at New Hope Elementary was a superb example of collaboration, adding, “We are grateful to community members, Family Success Alliance, and the Friends of the Orange County Public Library for partnering with New Hope Elementary and Book Harvest to make Books on Break 2017 a great success!”