Book Harvest, a Durham-based nonprofit, held its 11th annual Dream Big book drive in Durham Central Park on Monday.
The book drive takes place annually on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring his designation as a national day of service. Each year, Dream Big involves families, schools, local businesses and other groups to help provide books for children.
Benay Hicks, communications manager at Book Harvest, organized the book drive. She said that in 2022 Book Harvest made the event hybrid – with non-contact or in-person options.
Last year, the event was only held due to pandemic restrictions.
Community members who chose to attend in person were able to enjoy refreshments from Mr. A’s Donuts and watch the Bouncing Bulldogs – a local skipping program – perform to a medley of songs.
Hicks said the books are primarily donated by community members and distributed through partnerships with schools, laundromats and organizations throughout the Triangle.
Book Harvest’s Book Babies program also provides books and new bookshelves to participating families with young children to help them learn to read before they start school, she said.
Yolanda Grant, a local teacher, is on the Dream Big planning committee and has volunteered with Book Harvest for several years.
Grant said this year’s event was successful compared to previous events because Book Harvest was able to hold multiple book readers at the same time as the main event.
“This year we also offered a virtual book drive where people could order books online and donate to their various book drives,” Grant said.
The Dream Big book drive is also a way for other local schools and organizations to get exposure to community members. One of the schools represented was the Gift of Knowledge Academy, a private non-profit K-2 school in Durham that primarily serves low-income families.
Gift of Knowledge Academy executive director Deborah Watkins said she has worked with Book Harvest since 2017.
During the book drive, Watkins and her colleagues distributed school scarves and informational flyers. The scarves were embroidered with a pro-school choice message – a cause that upholds a parent’s ability to choose a school for their child.
Watkins said Gift of Knowledge Academy wanted to participate in the Dream Big book drive because both the school and the event were intended to provide access to educational resources for children.
“We want to make sure kids are fluent in their reading by the end of second grade,” Watkins said.
Meytal Barak, Book Harvest’s director of early literacy, said she supports all aspects of the Dream Big book drive because it aligns with the nonprofit’s mission to provide books. and family literacy support.
“That’s the beauty of this book drive,” Barak said. “Books come from all over the community and those books go back to the community to ensure that all children have access to books and are able to create their own literacy environment at home.”
Sarah Wood, chair of the board of directors of Book Harvest, said the organization wants to encourage people to donate books representing a variety of racial, ethnic and socio-economic identities during the Dream Big book drive.
This would allow children who receive books to feel represented in their learning, she said.
“We try to emphasize books with characters from all walks of life, backgrounds, and family structures,” Wood said. “In Durham, there are huge inequalities in who has access to books and reading material.”
Hicks said this year’s Dream Big event drew nearly 10,000 books, bringing the monthly total to nearly 33,000. January will be included in this total.
Grant said collecting Dream Big books has become a part of Durham that brings the community together.
“I think people are looking to serve and do something worthwhile,” Grant said. “You can just see the smiles on the faces of the children who receive these books.”
To contribute to the Dream Big 2022 total, community members can drop off books in the collection bins outside the Book Harvest office at 2501 University Drive in the Rockwood Shopping Center in Durham.
Books can also be purchased and donated via Book Harvest Online Wishlist.
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