Making everyone a reader

Jan. 15, 2013 @ 04:29 PM

If Sarah Dessen had her way, every household would come equipped with “Goodnight Moon.”
But not every home has a copy of the children’s classic ready-for-bed story, or “Make Way for Ducklings” or the Madeline books, Dessen understands. That’s why the Chapel Hill writer of young adult novels is such a big supporter of Book Harvest.
“Reading helps you get out of your own life,” Dessen said recently. “It’s a starting point for your imagination. I was fortunate that I grew up in a household with lots of books, and I believe everyone should have that same opportunity.”
So does Book Harvest, which collects new and gently used children’s books and distributes them free to children who don’t have them. 
The nonprofit will be celebrating its second anniversary Monday at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill by trying to collect 10,000 books for kids. In two years, it’s already collected and distributed more than 100,000 books, and to mark that milestone, Book Harvest has placed five golden tickets inside randomly selected books it’s recently put out for distribution.
The kids who find the tickets will each get a $50 gift certificate to Flyleaf during Monday’s event, along with a personal tour of the store.
Dessen, along with local authors Daniel Wallace and Randall Kenan, will be one of the speakers at the 10KBK event, talking about the power of books in their lives.
“Reading books is how I learned about storytelling,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be nearly as imaginative without having been a reader from a very young age. Reading is where that starts. It opens up worlds for you.”
For Wallace, who has been involved for years in adult literacy projects, the lack of books in a home is the reason so many adults come late to literacy.
“They didn’t have books in their homes and didn’t have books that could become precious to them,” he said.
Books remain central to his life and to his memories, he said. “I have forgotten most of my childhood, but I still remember some of the books I read.”
“War of the Worlds,” Wallace said, he read in the backseat of the family car on the way to a vacation in Florida. “Gulliver’s Travels” he would take to the bathtub to read.
“I’ve been in houses without books, and I’m not exaggerating, it feels like there’s an absence of some very vital form of life,” Wallace said.
That absence can be filled, said Young.
“We can completely solve this problem,” she said. “So many people have books they can donate or can purchase books if they don’t have any, and we can get them to those who need them. From newborn to age 18, board books to young adult novels, we need them all.”

Go & Do
WHAT: 10KBK (10,000 Books for Kids), the second annual celebration of MLK Day by Book Harvest, which distributes donated free books to local children.
WHERE: Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill
WHEN: 1-4 p.m. Monday
The goal is to collect 10,000 children’s books. Local authors Daniel Wallace, Sarah Dessen and Randall Kenan will speak about the power of books in their lives. Plus live music.
For more information, call 252-497-BOOK or email ginger@bookharvestnc.org.