A few weeks ago in the Glenn Elementary School library, I stood in front of a sea of books that RTP companies had come together to donate. They had been neatly stacked over tables and chairs and the air was calm…too calm. Suddenly, the doors burst open and through them poured a hurricane of hairclips and Spider Man shirts; the third grade class had arrived. As books flew in every direction, the room began to light up with the excited smiles of 7-year-olds as books were claimed and backpacks were filled.
The purpose of the day was to help the children prevent summer reading loss, which can be defined as the lag in reading improvement that takes place in younger grade levels during the duration of the summer, mostly in houses where reading material is not readily available or encouraged. Although summer break usually surmounts to only 2-3 months, the cumulative impact of the loss in reading improvements adds up to 1.5 years between grades 1 through 6. As you can see, unfortunately all of those short summers begin to add up.
This achievement gap is what Book Harvest, based out of Chapel Hill, is trying to battle. Ginger Young, the founder and executive director, along with her devoted team, have taken it upon themselves to get books in as many tiny hands as possible. Since 2011, they have donated over 200,000 books to elementary aged children in the Triangle, targeting children in the free and reduced lunch programs.
Lucky for RTP, we get to participate in such a wonderful effort annually. This year, Park companies donated 3,500 books to Book Harvest through a Park-run book drive called Books on Break. With notable donations from NetApp, Fidelity Investments, RTI, BASF, Cisco, EPA, NISS, and the Research Triangle Foundation, we were able to help students of Durham Public Schools get copies of books such as Junie B. Jones, Dr. Seuss, and Magic School Bus.
Watching the kids’ smiling faces and excited hands empty the shelves so quickly reminded me that there is always a need for more donations. Even after the generosity of Park employees, there will always be more children craving books the next year. For information on future book drives in the Park or how to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, visit www.bookharvestnc.org for more information on Book Harvest and their mission.