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Book-O-Ween: A Halloween celebration for Raleigh readers

Posted October 13, 2021 6:00 a.m. EDT

Children's books

— As a kid, my favorite parts of Halloween were obviously candy and costumes. There was nothing better than traditional trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. As I got older, I saw more “Trunk or Treat” events at local churches or organizations. I volunteered for them as a teen.

As an adult, the best part of Halloween is seeing kids come together in the name of fun. So when a friend who volunteers with Learning Together told me about Book-O-Ween, where children trick or treat for books, I thought, “Where can I sign up to get my kids books instead of candy?!” She laughed and slowed me down to let me know there would be some candy at the non-profit’s inaugural Book-O-Ween, but the emphasis was on giving donated books to kids ages 0-18, in costumes, of course! It’s all FREE for families.

Where and When

  • Learning Together, 568 E. Lenoir Street, Raleigh, NC 27601
  • Friday, October 29, 2021
  • Costume parades are at 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. for reduced crowd size.

Register for Book-O-Ween online

In partnership with WakeUp and Read, WCPSS Family Academy and Kennedy Office, English and Spanish books will be available at a “Trunk-Or-Treat” style event outside at Learning Together’s parking lot. No food or drink is served for the health and safety of families, except for prepackaged candy and treats. All Learning Together staff and volunteers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.


Mary Kay Kennedy, Director of Development & Strategy at Learning Together, says Book-O-Ween is a free event designed especially for local families. She says it was clearing out her own children’s old books to donate that gave her the idea. ,

“The idea for Book-O-Ween came about very serendipitously. Learning Together was planning a community event to engage not only our students and their families but the whole neighborhood and at the same time," Kennedy said. "I then had a conversation with a volunteer group from Enact (formerly Genworth Mortgage Insurance) and they were looking to help with a Halloween event. All three things converged in my head and I thought it would be a lot of fun to have kids come to Learning Together to trick or treat but instead of candy, they would get books!”

Again, there WILL be some candy. You can promise your kids candy.

Since 2012, Learning Together has worked to empower children with and without developmental delays, and their families, with the skills and tools necessary for a life of learning and success. Carrying on the legacy of a program in the Triangle started decades earlier, Learning Together now serves 70 children with high-quality pre-K education. 

“At Learning Together we know the benefits that reading and being read to has for young children, especially pre-K children and we also know that having access to books is a privilege that not everyone has. We decided this would be a great way to give back to the community and advocate for child literacy," Kennedy said.

Learning Together

Legacy of Learning

The service Learning Together provides goes beyond the families they directly serve. The model is designed to inspire lifelong learning based on empathy, creativity, inclusion, and dignity for people of all abilities and backgrounds; resulting in a population that can recognize and work against racism, ableism, and implicit bias in education, employment, and everyday life.

Learning Together Facts:

●     On average 65% of children enrolled are considered low income or living below poverty level.

●     70% have developmental delays.

●     60% are BIPOC.

●     Learning Together provides breakfast, lunch, and 2 snacks to each child everyday.

●     Staff and volunteers work directly with the Wake County Public School System which places students ages 3-5 with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) into our preschool at no cost to the parents.

●     Staff works with the NC Department of Health and Human Services to help families with low-incomes receive childcare subsidies to cover their tuition costs.

●     90% of Learning Together students enter kindergarten on the standard course of study.

●     100% of students leave Learning Together with the understanding that people are different and different is good, accommodations are not special services, simply tools to help those with different needs, and everyone deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Kennedy says seeing the growth of students is very rewarding for staff and volunteers.

“Watching the children at Learning Together, who come from vastly different backgrounds - culturally, financially, and developmentally, play and learn together gives me hope for the future. Watching typically developing children develop empathy and understanding about their developmentally delayed peers is just as inspiring as watching children with delays reach a goal they have worked so hard to achieve," Kennedy said.

Kennedy knows the candy will go quick, but also hopes no books are left at Book-O-Ween and that this becomes an annual event. “Books have such great capacity to teach empathy and creativity, I hope families take home books that broaden their perspectives on the world,” she said.

Amy Davis is a monogramming mom of three and fitness instructor with FIT4MOM Midtown Raleigh and web contributor for the historic Village District. She is a regular Go Ask Mom contributor.