Ten thousand Wake County children will have books to read this summer after the community rallied to meet this year’s WAKE Up and Read Book Drive goal.
Organizers of the annual book drive had raised an alarm when they said they had collected only 29,000 books in February, well short of this year’s goal of 110,000 books. The drive was extended, and now 114,025 books are being given to children at 10 Wake County elementary schools, 20 childcare centers and nine community centers.
“The community responded after we had publicity that we were short,” said Elizabeth Santana, administrator of WAKE Up and Read, a partnership of the Wake County school system and several community groups. “The books started really coming in.”
The excitement was evident Tuesday night at East Garner Elementary School, as parents and students looked through more than 8,000 books to pick 10 they would call their own. Many placed their names in their new books before plunking down on the floor to begin reading them.
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“It’s super exciting,” said Carmen Graf, the principal of East Garner Elementary School. “One fourth grader (asked) ‘I get to pick my own book?’”
It’s a scene being repeated at other elementary schools, all of which were chosen to get books because they have a large number of students receiving subsidized lunches. The other schools are Creech Road and Smith Elementary; Fox Road, Barwell Road, Brentwood and Walnut Creek in Raleigh; Hodge Road in Knightdale; Lincoln Heights Elementary in Fuquay-Varina and Wakelon Elementary in Zebulon.
The community centers and childcare centers receiving books are in the same neighborhoods served by the schools. The goal is to develop an interest in reading at a young age.
WAKE Up and Read was formed in 2012 to help get more Wake County students reading at grade level by the end of third grade. 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.
Organizers want the students to build up a home library so they’ll have material to read over the summer when schools are closed. Low-income families are less likely to be able to afford to buy children’s books.
“Every time they choose a book, it’s an opportunity for them,” Graf said. “Even students that just need extra help with practice have the opportunity to read books that they pick, that they’re are invested in. And even our great readers still have the opportunity to pick a book and bring something in the home that they haven’t had before.”
East Garner held a family literacy night last week where each member was able to pick up a book to take home. Motheread, a nonprofit group, also was at the event to share literacy tips with the parents. Similar events will be held at the other schools.
This was the third book drive organized by WAKE Up and Read, which collected 67,000 books in 2014.
“Today all of our students have so many different options that capture their attention, but a good book is something that gives them the opportunity to build their skills that support them all through life,” Graf said. “Much better than a video game or something that they may be involved in. Reading a skill that will support you no matter what you do.”
Graf said the goal is to help students leave East Garner Elementary proficient in reading and confident in their reading skills.
This year’s biggest donors were Dollar Book Exchange, Joyner Elementary School, Cary Family YMCA, Bonnie’s Book Foundation, Jones Dairy Elementary School and the Wake County school system’s central office staff.
Organizers said they also received significant monetary contributions from several organizations, including the United Way of the Greater Triangle and Wake County SmartStart.
“We are truly humbled by the generous outpouring of support,” Sherri Miller, director of K-12 Literacy for the Wake school system and a member of WAKE Up and Read’s leadership team, said in a written statement.
Staff writer Jonathan M. Alexander contributed to this report
WAKE Up and Read is looking for volunteers to help set up book fairs at the Wake County elementary schools that are getting the books from this year’s drive. Go to http://wakeupandread.org/ for information on how to volunteer.