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Worcester Book Drive Collects Over 25,000 Books

Saturday, May 26, 2012


“A house without books is like a room without windows.”  ~Heinrich Mann
As a society we take it for granted that all children have access to books. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. As a former principal, I can tell you that many of our low-income students don’t have access to books in their homes. If society wants to narrow the achievement gap in education it all starts with literacy.

After my wife Anne-Marie and I retired, we started “Worcester: the City that Reads” and for six years we have attempted to promote literacy in our community and the importance of being a life time reader. A true reader is developed, not born. This is the sixth year of collecting new and gently used books for children in grades pre-kindergarten to grade eight and in six years we have given out over 120,000 books to the children in this community.

We decided, after reading once again the research on the importance of summer reading and the danger of the “Summer Slide” (children losing academic skills due to the lack of literacy during the summer months), to continue to push for more books in our drive. Last year we collected 25,000 books and this year our goal was to surpass that number.
Our collection this year was more than 25,000 books and they are still coming in!

Just as important as the endeavor of putting books into the hands of our low-income students this project lets society know how important literacy is to this community. During the past several years people have stopped us on the streets and thanked us for bringing the importance of literacy to the forefront. One mother at a school function last week turned to her child and said, “This is the person that we donated our books to so other children can read books in their home.”

This year we started our drive early… March 2nd (in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday) and put a great deal of energy in this campaign. The key to our success was hard work, staying on top of the operation with telephone calls to the various sites, receiving support from the media… especially from the ads on Channel Three, going on radio shows and emailing our friends about the campaign. We also were able to get some of our friends to collect books at various sites.

In addition, we added more sites and added additional high schools and colleges to the mix. The high schools that contributed high volumes of books were Holy Name, Bancroft School, Worcester Academy, Venerini Academy, and our public schools in Worcester – Doherty, Burncoat, South High, North High and University Park Campus.

We received tremendous support from the two businesses new to the drive this year, UMass Medical School and Scholastic Books. Several other businesses in the area also contributed, and were instrumental to the drive's success.

The most difficult task was coordinating the drive and picking up the books. Without a doubt, the work hours on this huge project were quite high. In the past sorting the books was a major problem but this year we had 12 members of the Doherty National Honor Society assisting us and we were able to get the job done in one day. The books were picked up by the schools this week and students from South High assist us in carrying them to the vans of each school. The books will be distributed to the students during “Reading in our City Week-the week of June 10th” initiated by Worcester: the City that Reads and brought forth with a Proclamation by Mayor Petty.

In addition to the Worcester Public Schools, we have given books to the following summer programs in Worcester: African Education Institute, Rainbow Child Development, Books for Babies program, Head Start, Plumley Village, Juvenile Courts, St. Peter’s primary grades United Way sponsored summer camps, the Parent Information Center, and the other social agencies and church groups.

Two elementary schools are setting up a school library so we donated hard covered books to get them started. Books were also given to the Worcester Public Library to be placed on the Mobile Express for “pop up” stops during the summer months and adult books to the Friends of the Library for Union Station riders and books to be sold at a discounted price.

Although we can’t control how the books will be used it is our desire to see the schools talk to parents on the importance of reading during the summer months and then have the books continue to circulate by having a “book swap” in the early fall in an effort to keep the literacy program alive throughout the year.

According to research:

- Children in low-income areas do not have access to books and many live too far away to visit the public library. Children lose between 3 to 4 months of academic growth during the summer time because they are not reading or engaging in meaningful learning activities.

- Parents of children living in poverty may lack the money to buy books, may not have easy access to good children’s books, and may not themselves have been read to as children, with the results that millions of children are growing up without books.

- Reading difficulty contributes to school failure, which increases the risk of absenteeism, school dropout, substance abuse – all of which perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.

This can change if our community works together… our schools, social agencies and other organizations. Those who have established Summer Camps need to be sure to include literacy activities as part of the day’s activities and our schools need to find ways of opening their library doors for parents to borrow books during the summer months, even if they allow books to be borrowed at the end of the school year to be brought back at the beginning of the next school year. Although the drive is over we would be very happy to accept other book donations throughout the year for the greatest gift we can give our children is a passion for reading.

Another positive for this summer is the mobile library. As one who advocated for the mobile library to “hit” the streets of Worcester since 2006, I am delighted that the “Mobile Express” will be visiting the parks, pools and neighborhoods this summer. This is truly in line of making “Worcester: the City that Reads.”

Finally, we need to remember that PARENTS are the key teachers during the summer time! Parents must make literacy activities part of their child’s daily summer activities. Next week I’ll be writing about how parents can help their child this summer. For now let’s enjoy the fact that many books have been collected and will find their way into the hands of our children. As Charles W. Eliot once said, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Boys and girls…happy reading! 


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