New North Carolina First Lady Kristin Cooper is helping kick off this year’s campaign to ensure that thousands of low-income Wake County children will get books to read over the summer.
Cooper, the wife of Gov. Roy Cooper, will be a celebrity reader at Saturday’s 2 p.m. kickoff event for the 2017 WAKE Up and Read Book Drive at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. Organizers of the fourth annual community book drive want to collect at least 110,000 books by March 4 to give to children at schools, community centers and childcare centers.
“We obviously appreciate her making time to come and making it an opportunity for communities to discuss coming together to address literacy,” said Carolyn Merrifield of WAKE Up and Read, formed in 2012 by the Wake County school system in partnership with several community groups to promote childhood literacy.
It’s important to get children reading at a young age. A 2011 national study found that one in six third-grade students who isn’t proficient in reading doesn’t graduate from high school on time.
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The book drive has focused on children from low-income communities whose parents might not be as able to afford to buy books. To help address the issue, people are being urged to donate new and gently used books for children from birth to age 12.
Collection sites will be around the county, including Quail Ridge Books at 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road in Raleigh, Marbles Kids Museum at 201 E. Hargett St. in Raleigh and at YMCA of the Triangle locations.
Once the drive is over, students at 10 Wake County elementary schools will get books: Barwell Road, Brentwood, Fox Road and Walnut Creek in Raleigh; Creech Road, East Garner and Smith in Garner; Hodge Road in Knightdale; Lincoln Heights Elementary in Fuquay-Varina and Wakelon Elementary in Zebulon.
The goal is to provide 10 books to each student. Books will also be provided to community centers and childcare centers near those 10 schools.
“There’s always a need,” Merrifield said. “There’s going to be a new group of kids each year. Unfortunately this is not a need that will go away soon.”
Organizers collected 67,000 books in 2014 and 110,000 in 2015.
Last year, organizers raised an alarm when it appeared they might fall short of their goal to collect 110,000 books. In the end, 114,025 books were donated, with many coming in at the last minute.
This year, the campaign will be longer at six weeks instead of just four. People will also be encouraged to drop off books throughout the drive.
“Folks really start collecting books in earnest on the first day of the drive in January, but we had people waiting until the end of the drive to drop them off,” Merrifield said.
How to help
The 2017 WAKE Up and Read Book Drive kicks off at 2 p.m. Saturday at Quail Ridge Books, 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road in Raleigh. Event highlights include story time with special celebrity readers like First Lady Kristin Cooper, face painting, art activities and appearances by Ruben the WAKE Up and Read Rooster and Disney Princesses. Quail Ridge is offering a 20 percent discount on books purchased for donation to the book drive.
Go to wakeupandread.org for more information on the book drive, including a map showing sites where books can be dropped off, how to volunteer and tips on how parents can promote literacy to their children.