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Go Ask Mom

Book Drive: Building literacy skills, 10 books at a time

Posted February 26

Jane Small of Books Are Magic

Through March 3, WAKE Up and Read's book drive is collecting books across Wake County to eventually donate to children in need in our region.

Among the volunteers involved in the project is Jane Small, a Raleigh native, mom of two and a lawyer by profession. A few years ago, Small also launched Books Are Magic, a nonprofit devoted to building home libraries for children.

I checked in with Small to learn more about her group and the WAKE Up and Read Book Drive. Here's a Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: Tells us about you and books as a child. Were you a voracious reader? How did they make a difference in your young life?

Jane Small: I was a voracious reader growing up. I always had at least one book with me at all times. Reading was like breathing for me. Books were my oxygen. Reading opened my world and gave me a creative outlet. I loved feeling like I was actually in a story with the rest of the world faded away. The stories I loved became a part of me and influenced how I saw the world and myself. And I’ve met so many good friends through books. Shared reading experiences build connections, and I think my best friends are all people who love to read.

GAM: You started Books Are Magic a few years ago. Why? What do you do?

JS: I read an article in the New York Times about children who didn’t have books over the summer. The statistic that stuck with me was that 66 percent of families living in poverty have zero children’s books at home. I talked to a friend, and we decided to try to do something about it by collecting books and giving them out at schools. The children who got to choose books to keep were so excited, we knew we had to do it again.

GAM: Why is reading so critical for kids?

JS: Reading opens so many doors for children. We all know that good reading skills contribute to academic and career success, but I also think that reading builds empathy and confidence and engages curiosity. When you read, you can go anywhere and learn anything. You also can learn about people whose lives are different and hopefully also see characters whose lives are like your own. Stories help us navigate difficult situations in real life and open new areas of learning and interest.

GAM: With Books Are Magic, you're participating in the Wake Up and Read book drive. Tell us about the drive and how people can help?

JS: Books Are Magic is a partner in the WAKE Up and Read community collaborative and has been involved with the book drive for the past four years.

WAKE Up and Read has a goal of collecting 110,000 children’s books, which will be given to children at ten elementary schools as well as a number of childcare centers and community centers. Every child at the ten elementary schools gets to choose ten books each. It’s like a gigantic bookstore, except everything is free.

The book drive goes through early March. People can donate new or gently used children’s books at any of the locations listed at WAKE Up and Read's website. We also need volunteers to help us sort the books we’re collecting. Anyone interested in helping can sign up at the website, too.

GAM: What do you enjoy about this work - putting books in kids' hands?

JS: When children see themselves as readers and book owners, it changes the way they see themselves. It’s like handing them the keys to the world. There’s something magical about a child finding the perfect book and really engaging with a story, be it fiction or non-fiction. Positive reading experiences lead to others, so it’s important that children have the opportunity to choose books they want to read. When you see children walking out the door hugging stacks of books they’re eager to read, you know you’ve made a difference.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

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