PAWTUCKET – March is National Reading Month and Books Are Wings in Pawtucket continues to do what it does best: put free books in the hands of children who need them by partnering with school districts, businesses, and communities.
Founded in 1998 and going non-profit in 2003, Books Are Wings is collaborating with Bank of Rhode Island for its annual book drive this month, where new and gently used books are being collected at all 20 Bank of Rhode Island branch locations.
They are also busy with their year-long programming at core school districts and communities through their Books All Year initiative, which hosts read-aloud and literacy events for students.
As of January, the organization has a new executive director who says her goal is to carry forward the organization’s values of community, equity, diversity and environmentalism.
“I am inspired by the power of Books Are Wings to transform the lives of children by providing access to books and fostering a love of reading, and I’m truly honored to help carry out its’ mission,” said Jennifer Smith.
Smith said she has enjoyed getting to know community partners and supporters of the Books Are Wings mission and those they rely on to donate books that are redistributed to children in the program.
“It has become more clear to me than ever that we could not do what we do without the support of our many partners,” she said.
Smith said she particularly enjoys bringing free books to schools in the organization’s four core communities as part of the Books All Year initiative. The initiative allows students in Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket to choose free books after a read-aloud event held in their classroom or school library.
Other events where the organization provides free books as part of Books All Year include family reading nights held in the community and school-based events, such as after school programs and recess visits before summer vacation.
Events are typically held three times per school year, which participating schools can choose to be part of.
“Sometimes we do more community events with a school, and sometimes more school-day events, depending on what works best for them to reach their students and families,” said Smith.
Participating schools include Baldwin Elementary School, Anthony Carnevale Elementary School, Nathanael Greene Middle School, Harry Kizirian Elementary School, Cunningham Elementary School, Paul Cuffee School, Veazie Street Elementary School, Genesis Center, Winters Elementary School, Alfred Lima Elementary School, Fallon Elementary School, and Kevin K. Coleman Elementary School.
Along with encouraging literary engagement among students for a community-centered approach to literacy, Smith says the program also fosters a family-centered approach, with students bringing home books that are theirs to keep.
“Book ownership allows families to read together,” said Smith. “61 percent of underserved communities have little or no books in the home. For children who don’t have very many books at home, getting four books per year can grow their home library.”
Books All Year distributes fiction and non-fiction books that are gently used and donated by individuals and companies but not textbooks. More than 60,000 free books make their way to children each year.
“We believe in the power of literacy to transform lives of children and families in the community,” Smith said.
The most recent Books All Year event was a literacy night at Agnes E. Little Elementary School on March 7, with a read-aloud, crafts, and book selection for grades K-2 and 3-5. Smith emphasized how the program has engaged students across the districts and communities it works with.
“Rhode Island is our home; (each) community is special to us,” she said.
In January, the organization visited Anthony Carnevale Elementary School, and Smith said she was touched by the reactions when children learned they could take books home with them after the event.
“They were so surprised and excited they could choose and keep,” she said.
To donate new or gently used books for this month’s book drive, visit a participating Bank of Rhode Island location.
For volunteer opportunities, call Books Are Wings at 401-475-4882.
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