Wake County book drive meets goal for helping children

Fox Road Elementary students gifted books

Students at Fox Road Elementary selected books during a book fair made possible by the WAKE Up and Read Book Drive Monday, May 2, 2016 in Raleigh, N.C.
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Students at Fox Road Elementary selected books during a book fair made possible by the WAKE Up and Read Book Drive Monday, May 2, 2016 in Raleigh, N.C.

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 Monday at Fox Road Elementary School in North Raleigh, as students looked through 6,000 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.

“It’s so exciting for them to have this opportunity,” said Robert Lewis, the principal of Fox Road. “It’s almost like it’s Christmas.”

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 Barwell Road, Brentwood 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 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 that 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

“This comes at a great time to stem summer learning loss,” Lewis said. “It will be a celebration of reading.”

Fox Road held a family literacy night last week where each member was able to pick up a book to take home. Motheread, a non-profit 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.

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.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

Volunteers needed

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 for information on how to volunteer.