The magic of books: Non-profit celebrates donation of one million books to Collier kids
All of us who toil in the newspaper business are glad you are reading this, and are able to read.
As numerous studies have shown, literacy is one of the best predictor’s of a child’s future success in life. A lack of basic reading skills is linked with academic failure, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, unemployment, low productivity and welfare dependency.
Beyond those grim facts, reading is a positive, joyful experience, opening up doors in every direction. When the light goes on in children’s minds that books are their ticket to a galaxy of different worlds, they begin a lifelong voyage of discovery. Delivering that moment to the children of Collier County is the mission of Books for Collier Kids (BCK).
Launched in 2005 as First Book-Collier County, Books for Collier Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a steady stream of new books to children in low-income families throughout Collier County, has distributed more than one million new, age-appropriate and personalized books to pre-K, kindergarten, first- and second-grade students in-need to transform children’s lives.
The 501(c)3 charity partners with more than 20 local organizations, including Fun Time Early Childhood Academy, Grace Place, Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children, Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, Friends of Foster Care, the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County, and Guadalupe Center.
“For 13 years we’ve addressed the need for access to books in the homes of at-risk children in Collier County,” said Books for Collier Kids Founder Joanne Wyss. “It is our passion to provide area students books that engage their minds, ignite their imaginations and help them develop the reading skills they need for success in school and throughout their lives.”
“These are brand new, high quality, age- and curriculum-appropriate books, and we give each child one book every month,” said Williams. “We are giving books to over 7,500 children – 75,000 to 100,000 books each year.”
They buy the books at 80 percent off retail, through overruns and through publishers’ strategic marketing decisions, she said. “If Disney is coming out with “Cars 2,” they want all the Cars 1 books off the shelves.
“We work with curriculum specialists at each of the schools, and correlate what we donate with what the kids are studying. The teachers know in advance what books they’ll be getting, so they can develop lesson plans. And each kid in the class gets the same book,” to help with a coordinated effort.
“We work with other nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity. Every family that builds a Habitat home gets a handmade tabletop bookshelf, made by Habitat volunteers, with 12-15 books selected for their children.”
While children speak many languages, especially Spanish and Creole, in their homes, all BCK books are in English, as fluency in that language is another important requirement for success in this country. The group also gives out books during summer vacation, to fight “summer slide,” when many children, particularly in lower income families, lose ground in their literacy while out of school.
Books for Collier Kids celebrated the milestone of one million books donated to area students during the “Thanks a Million Celebration” held at the Port Royal Club on February 28. More than 200 guests enjoyed a cocktail party, dinner and keynote address by Dr. Kamela K. Patton, Superintendent of Collier County Public Schools, who shared the ongoing need for early and regular access to books for local students, as well as acknowledging the charity for the milestone delivery of one million books to Collier students since 2005.
Added “Thanks a Million Celebration” Co-Chair Nora Kolmer, “Books for Collier Kids helps to provide the extra push that our children at-risk need and deserve; we are ever grateful to our supporters for being the life-line that bridges the gap so these children can live the American dream and be successful.”
For more information on Books for Collier Kids, or to support their efforts, go online to www.booksforcollierkids.org, or call Sallie Williams at 239-394-4062.
– Naples Daily News/Collier Citizen