The Joy of Reading
Books for Collier Kids is expanding its impact with the help of the Community Foundation.
Books for Collier Kids provides free books to pre-kindergarten through second-grade students at Title 1 Collier County elementary schools, where 75 percent or more of the students’ families are financially disadvantaged.
A Collier Community Foundation grant is helping Books for Collier Kids expand its program to Big Cypress Elementary School. According to Collier County Public Schools, 62 percent of the children at Big Cypress are economically needy based on free and reduced- cost meals provided.
Since receiving the $10,000 grant, Books for Collier Kids has been able to give 420 Big Cypress students a book each month during the 2021- 2022 school year—for ten months— to build their own at-home libraries.
Sallie Williams, chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors, said that even if the school falls slightly below the Title 1 threshold, the majority is low-income. “This is such a dichotomy of what people think of when they think of Naples,” she said.
Literacy is one of the best predictors of a child’s future academic success, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. “A lack of basic literacy skills is linked with academic failure, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, and unemployment,” according to Books for Collier Kids.
Having books at home in the summer also inspires reading and language learning when children aren’t in school. According to Books for Collier Kids, low-income students who don’t have access to books suffer from “summer slide”—they return to fall classes with reading scores 30 percent lower than those with continued access to books.
Books for Collier Kids gives a new book each month—120,000 each year—to 10,000 children at 26 elementary schools in Collier County and others in two dozen organizations, including Head Start pre-K and VPK programs, Collier Habitat, Christ Child Society of Naples, Fun Time Early Childhood Academy, Youth Haven, and Grace Place for Children & Families.
In addition to Big Cypress, Williams said the organization is also trying to expand to two other elementary schools on the cusp of Title 1: Corkscrew and Lake Park Elementary.
Books for Collier Kids began as a chapter of Washington, D.C.-based First Book in 2005 as a fund at Collier Community Foundation before becoming incorporated and changing its name a decade later.
Because the nonprofit doesn’t hold an annual gala or major fundraiser, “We would not be able to purchase the books and get them in the hands of children who need them so desperately without donations and grants,” Williams said. She added that the Collier Community Foundation “has been supportive every step of the way.”
– Community Foundation Connector | Summer 2022