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Summer Time

June 5, 2012

Summer for me was always in large part about books. Sure, the heady days of unstructured outdoor fun, trips to the beach or to visit family, camps, and impromptu playdates were a major part of the warm months, but I always looked forward to summer as a time when I could go to the library every one or two weeks and bring home a mountain of books to devour. I was so proud of working my way through the stacks of books, so giddy with the freedom to pull book after book off the shelf, not having to be too choosy because I was bringing so many home. The adventures I had in books were as much a part of my summer adventures as trips we took or camps I attended. To be able to curl up with a book whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted, to retreat to the cool shade after a day of play, was bliss.

Summer should be a time for books. But for too many children, summer means spending time in a book desert. If children do not have access to books over the summer, their reading skills decline, and they return to school several months behind where they were—this is known as the “summer slide.” Research shows that giving at-risk children books before the summer break can counteract the slide. Personal experience also shows that having books at your disposal over the summer can nourish your imagination. Yet 67% of at-risk children have no age appropriate books at home.

Last year, we set out to try to change this fact. We gave 12 books to 120 kids who were in need of books. This year, we are proud to have expanded our program. We worked with 3 schools and gave 12 books to more than 300 kids. In partnership with schools, we helped to raise more than 7000 books.

We also started this website, we have a Facebook page (BooksAreMagic) and are on Twitter (@Books_Are_Magic). We are proud to have followers around the world and to be sharing our message with the broader community of people who care about literacy and books.

We are so grateful to those who donated books to our efforts, especially the families and staff of Olds Elementary, Wiley Elementary, Poe Elementary, and Follow the Child Montessori; Books for Kids; Umstead Park United Church of Christ; and many neighbors and friends. We found enthusiastic volunteers along the way who shared our passion for books and saw the power in putting books in the hands of children who need them. And we found devoted principals, teachers, and school staff who believe that access to books can change the lives of the students they devote their own lives to educating.

Our work is far from over, and we are hoping to expand thoughtfully to more schools next year.

The joy that we see every time we give a child the beginning of their own library is indescribable. There is a thrill in knowing that if we start with a child in kindergarten, they will have 84 books by the time they leave elementary school. And for children with siblings, we know that they also will grow up in a house with books. My wish is that one day these children will be able to say “Books have been important to me.” To be part of that is a gift.

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