Research Triangle Park, NC – Strolling alongside the table checkered with donated books, 7-year-old Amari gently drags his hand across the covers, a few tempting titles drawing his attention. When he has chosen three to take home, he immediately sits to start reading.
What was special about those three among the dozens?
“That’s a good question,” says Amari, one of about 50 summer campers at the Boys and Girls Club of Durham and Orange Counties who were invited Thursday (Aug. 10) to take books donated during GoDurham’s Books on Bus campaign. “I look at the words and start to read them in my mind and then I start to know the books they are. This one is called “Froggy Eats Out.” What I like about it is that frogs eat nasty stuff. Which is funny.”
In a monthlong campaign that included a Books on Bus donation night at a Durham Bulls game, GoDurham collected more than 1,000 books to hand out to Durham children who might have few books at home. More than 66 percent of the children in Durham public schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
“Books on Bus began as an idea to simply gather books from the community to give to those who may not have books of their own because reading is so critical in a child’s life,” GoDurham Marketing Manager Wendy Mallon says. “Making small steps to improve the lives of those in our community is everyone’s responsibility.
This was our way to give back to the Durham community members who have been so instrumental to our success.”
At the Boys and Girls Club event, the dialogue is punctuated with happiness: “I found the one I wanted!” “You know you have to let me borrow that!” “I’m going to read mine right now!”
“I like to read,” says Muhammad, 10. “I like words. Every time you find an interesting word, that’s why I like reading. I like the challenge of words.”
With his head resting in one hand, 10-year-old Kenyon thumbs through “Time for Kids Top 5 of Everything” with the other, muttering that he doesn’t really like to read before exclaiming to a friend, “Hey! Did you know Lake Baikal is 5,369 feet deep?”
Benay Hicks, director of operations at the club, wants community members who took the time to donate books to know how much they are appreciated.
“It’s always almost overwhelming when we get donations like this because it reminds us that people care, that people are out there thinking of these kids, thinking of this community,” she says. “We’re eternally grateful when a company like GoDurham reaches out. RTP, Durham, Raleigh are booming, growing. With people coming from all over the country, communities like ours are often overlooked, so this is really important.”
The next Books on Bus giveaway will be Saturday (August 12) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Museum of Life and Science. The museum is hosting the grand finale for the Durham County Public Library’s summer reading program after hours that night.
In addition to giving books to the library’s summer readers, GoDurham will hand out books and a ticket to the library’s festivities to any child who comes to the event, which will include crafts and a chance to check out a GoDurham bus.
GoDurham also will give away its new book, “T is for Transit,” produced by the transit agency’s marketing staff.
“It has been such a fun project for our team to write a book that will expose young kids to transit maybe for the first time,” says Mallon, who wrote the book. “In the next few years, the children whose parents we serve today will be teenagers and young adults, making important decisions about how they will travel the Triangle. Our hope is that by learning about transit early, they will grow up to see it as a viable option that fits their lifestyle.”
Any donated books remaining after the museum event will be given to Book Harvest, a Durham nonprofit that provides books to children and engages families and communities to promote children’s lifelong literacy and academic success.
“I hope those in the community who donated books feel good about making a difference in the families who will receive the books,” Mallon says. “I know that we are proud to have been a part of this and look forward to this being an annual event.”