Some Wake County teachers are doing their part to make sure that Southeast Raleigh children spend the summer reading books to help keep their minds sharp over the long break from school.
Lugging boxes of books and a cooler packed with ice pops, Raleigh's Rolling Readers book program started Thursday at Chavis Park in Raleigh. Over the summer, the volunteers plan to visit sites around Southeast Raleigh to give away books to children.
“We’ve got kids who can’t afford books and who don’t have access to libraries due to lack of public transportation," said Christine Tuttell, an instructional technology facilitator at Washington Elementary School in Raleigh. "I said it would be so simple if we showed up at places in Southeast Raleigh where the kids are."
Tuttell says the inspiration for the program came from Kelsey Clarke, a kindergarten teacher at Washington Elementary, who told her about a librarian who sold discounted books at coffee shops. They decided to make the books free and to target children from elementary school through high school.
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Research has shown that lower-income children suffer more learning loss over the summer than affluent peers who are more likely to be reading and going to educational activities. Southeast Raleigh is one of the most economically depressed parts of Wake County.
Tuttell reached out to teachers and librarians to donate children's books and to help hand them out. She sent an email to principals at area schools asking them to let their families know about the book giveaway,
"Any books in any kid's hands are enough for us," Tuttell said. "Even if we reach just one, that's enough."
Throughout the morning, children flocked to the book giveaway. Some children came with their parents, while others were part of groups such as Communities in Schools of Wake County's SMART Academy summer program.
Edward Harrington Jr. lives across the street from Chavis Park, so he was happy to turn the visit to the park with his daughter into a hunt for new books. He said his daughter, Charlee, 6, a rising first-grade student at PAVE Southeast Raleigh charter school, reads two to three books a day.
"She loves books, so we took advantage of the opportunity," Harrington said.
Ava Fletcher, 9, a rising fourth-grade student at Stough Elementary School in Raleigh, was looking forward to reading the books she picked out.
"Reading books makes me feel happy and all good inside," Ava said. "When I read books that I like, I start feeling like I'm inside the books."
Tuttell said that she hopes partnering with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle at future events will help ensure that Raleigh's Rolling Readers serves children throughout the summer. The next scheduled Raleigh's Rolling Readers event is July 2 at 6 p.m. at Chavis Park, 505 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Raleigh.