BELFAST — Recognizing that too many families lack easy access to books as well as essential meals, Literacy Volunteers of Waldo County will deliver books this summer, in partnership with initiatives providing food to families with school-age children in need.  To create an ample supply of reading possibilities, Literacy Volunteers is conducting a book drive, requesting donations of gently used books for children of all ages. The group is also leading a team of community partners who will offer additional educational enrichment activities.

According to coordinator Denise Pendleton, books will be given away to approximately 200 children of families being served by two programs, Waldo Community Action Partners and FOOD (Feeding Opportunities & Outreach Directive).  FOOD is a multi-agency collaborative effort with Belfast Soup Kitchen serving as lead partner and sponsor of the Federal Child Nutrition Summer Food Service Program.  Through these partnerships, food and books will be delivered for a total of 11 weeks, from mid-June to the end of August, to a total of six Belfast neighborhoods and several towns in Waldo County.

Literacy Volunteers post this sign on their cars when delivering books to families. Courtesy of Literacy Volunteers of Waldo County

“Last summer, in a similar partnership outreach to neighborhoods, clamors for ‘the Book Lady’ became the norm, beginning as soon as food was delivered,” Pendleton said in a press release. “As the red van driven by the Literacy Volunteers pulled up, children, mothers, fathers and grandparents gathered to browse and select from the boxes of books organized by age and topic.”

Educational enrichment team members include Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition (with Jenni Judkins, award-winning natural literacy educator in the schools), Frida the Fabulous ArtVan, the Restorative Justice Project, Literacy Volunteers, SNAP, 4-H and Music to Grow On. The team will provide activities and offer take-home resources that include not only books, but also art supplies, recipe cards and seedlings.

“The goal of the education team is to inform and inspire families to take time this summer to have fun learning, to practice healthy nutrition, to experience the joys of reading aloud, and to get outside to enjoy the natural world,” Pendleton said.

This will be the third annual Literacy Volunteers Book Drive. In 2019, the group led a book drive for children of asylum seekers in Portland, which resulted in over 200 books being distributed. Last summer, in 2020, the book drive drew donations of hundreds of books for children of all ages.

Why does this book drive matter? According to Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books,  “summer setback” often has its greatest impact on children from families who lack easy access to books. During the summer, their reading achievement typically declines by an average of three months (source: McGill-Franzen & Arlington, 2003).

Literacy Volunteers Coordinator Denise Pendleton shares a book with a young recipient. Courtesy of Literacy Volunteers of Waldo County

“The absence of regular classroom attendance due to the pandemic, added to this summer setback, makes this an especially important time to get books and reading aloud into the lives of families,” Pendleton said in the press release. “The habit of reading aloud together is one of the single most important predictors of later reading success.  It also builds relationships by giving opportunities for new conversations about so much — from feelings to facts and ideas.”

Literacy Volunteers hopes other community members will want to join this effort to provide the pleasure and power of children’s books, Pendleton said, “which can give joy and hope to these families following the past 14 months of uncertainty and disruption of routines caused by the pandemic.”

She said Literacy Volunteers is grateful for a partnership with Waldo County Technical Center, which is providing a collection site for donated books. Those who wish to purchase new books online to donate can have them sent directly to the Waldo County Technical Center, 1022 Waldo Road, Waldo, ME 04915, with “Attention: LVWC Book Drive.” Book donations may also be dropped off at the Tech Center’s front office, 8:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Monday–Thursday, July 6 – 26.

For more information about how to contribute to the book drive, either by donating or purchasing books from a list of recommended titles or by providing a monetary contribution, contact Denise Pendleton at 338-3197 or dpendleton@rsu71.org