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Books in every home: Wake Up and Read's annual book drive seeks to put books in hands, homes of all kids

Beth Rossen, a Raleigh mom, shares details about her volunteer work with Wake Up and Read and how the public can help.

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Beth Rossen, Wake Up and Read volunteer
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
, Go Ask Mom editor
Wake Up and Read, a community group that's working to ensure all kids have access to books, is in the midst of its annual book drive. This year's goal is to collect 110,000 books by March 3. They will be distributed to kids, ages 0 to 12, in need.

To learn more about the book drive and how to help, I checked in with Beth Rossen, who lives in north Raleigh with her husband and two kids. Rossen is a former third grade teacher and current stay-at-home mom and full-time volunteer, serving her second year as Brier Creek Elementary School PTA president and volunteering with Wake Up and Read and in the Jewish community.

With Wake Up and Read, she is now in her third year serving on the Wake Up and Read Collaborative, assisting with the book collection and sorts and serving as the lead at a couple of the program's partner schools.

In this Q&A, Rossen shares more about why she got involved, her own love of reading and how we can help this important effort:

Go Ask Mom: How and when did you get involved in Wake Up and Read? Why did its work speak to you?
Beth Rossen: When we moved to Raleigh five years ago, I initiated a book drive at Brier Creek Elementary that collected over 5,000 books. Having a literacy background and reading specialist certification, I believe strongly in all children having access to books in their home. My goal with initiating the BCES Book Drive was to allow our students in need to choose books for their home and also allow teachers to add to their classroom collections. After distributing the books at Brier Creek, I sought out an organization in the community to donate the remaining thousands of books and came across Wake Up and Read.

The WUAR mission to “increase access to literacy resources and opportunities for all children” really spoke to me and I took the BCES books to the drop off location. The following year, I was asked to attend a planning meeting and was immediately drawn in because of my love of children’s books and the opportunity to help distribute books to children in schools. I love sorting through all the books and listening to volunteers talk about their childhood memories with books.

The best part of volunteering with WUAR is being in the partner schools on distribution day. I love seeing the students’ faces light up as they pick out that perfect book and realize they get to take home 10 books. I also love being able to expose students to books they might not otherwise select by talking up one of my favorites as they look around.

GAM: What books do you remember from your own childhood and loved? What books are favorites for your own family?
BR: As a child, I loved my daddy reading to me at bedtime and I have a vivid memory of recording myself reading my first book, "Grizzwold." Some of my favorite memories from elementary school involve my teachers reading aloud, including "Bridge to Terabithia" and "The Indian in the Cupboard." I loved reading all of the Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books.

As a parent, my favorite part of the day is bedtime reading with my kids, even as one is now in middle school. My daughter even learned to read at a young age because she wanted to read to her little brother at bedtime. When my children were preschoolers, our favorites included "Goodnight Moon," Sandra Boynton books and Dr. Seuss books.

Some of recent favorites have been the Magic Treehouse series, the Lemonade War series and the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series by Chris Grabenstein.

GAM: Why is it so important to get books into the hands and homes of every child?
BR: Research shows that there is a correlation between the number of books in the home and a child’s academic success. It is important that children are exposed to a print-rich environment from an early age. When there are books in the home, it encourages children to read for pleasure and encourages discussions about the books among family members. As students read more, they expand their vocabulary, they broaden their imaginative skills and discover new information. Without books in the home, students are limited and are at a disadvantage in school.
GAM: How does Wake Up and Read distribute the books?
BR: Wake Up and Read’s goal is to collect 110,000 during the annual book drive, which runs through March 3. Books are sorted and boxed for delivery to 10 partner schools and over a dozen childcare centers across Wake County. At each of the partner schools, the books are organized by categories (picture, short chapter, long chapter, leveled readers, and non-fiction) like a bookstore.

All students come “shop” and self-select 10 books to add to their home library. This opportunity exposes children to a wide variety of books, topics and series and allows them to expand their reading repertoire.

GAM: How can people help Wake Up and Read's book drive?
BR: Donate new or gently-used book at one of the drop off sites around Wake County, such as Quail Ridge Books, Marbles Kids Museum, Cary Towne Center, and dozens of business, community centers, and schools. Book donations should be appropriate for children birth-12 years of age.
People also can volunteer at one of the book sorts in March and April or volunteer at one of the partner school during book distribution in May and June. Sign ups will be posted on the Wake Up and Read website in the coming weeks or email wakereads@gmail.com to be notified when the sign up is available.
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