As we move into a new year, our Book Bag Project continues to get books into the hands of children across Rhode Island. As we’ve grown the program to meet the demand of families, we’ve partnered with local school districts, community centers and family meal sites. These partnerships allowed us to get 55,314 Books out to learners last year.
So far this year, we’ve selected, packed and distributed 2,829 books, 938 of which have gone to families at Providence Schools Distance Learner Grab and Go meal sites.
Just as we’ve pivoted our distribution methods, we’ve also changed how we support and engage volunteers. We now offer a contactless opportunity, which allows volunteers to pick up books, bags and labels and pack book bags at home. One long-time volunteer, Marti, recently spoke with us about her experience as a volunteer with Books Are Wings:
“I’ve been volunteering for 8-10 years with Books Are Wings. I had retired, from being an elementary school teacher for 30 years. I always loved books and literacy and working with kids and wanted to find something that would support those passions.”
Marti shared a little about her experience in past years, “Before COVID, I would go in to the BAW office and sort books. With my teaching experience, I could really gauge what kids would like, and support readers who were struggling. When I went back to teach high school, I often brought some of my students to help sort.”
As a teacher, Marti’s experience has been invaluable in her volunteering: “I would also go to schools and read stories out loud which was certainly one of my favorite things to do as an elementary school teacher, and then as a volunteer. I would work at home to create and sync up projects to go with different books, or find books that I thought would adapt well to reading aloud in schools, and share with the program team. One of the best parts was my work in supporting the connections that built the Central Falls summer programs. It was once a week program in Central Falls parks for the summers of 2018 and 2019. I would go for a few hours, spread out on the grass. read books to kids, and there would be books for kids to take home.”
While things have changed, the books are still reaching local kids, because of volunteers just like Marti. “Once the pandemic hit, it was clear that we weren’t going into schools. I remember starting by sorting books at home, and doing it in my driveway. Packing the books for all the different grades and driving them back, means it’s easy for them to be distributed at school lunch programs and things like that. I am older and not willing to risk being exposed, but this helps us keep the fun of sharing books.”
She concluded: “I am very grateful that BAW exists. Both on behalf of the many thousands of kids to whom we give books, and for myself, being able to put my skills to use and have fun. I miss being in contact with kids and sharing books, but I am also grateful that Books Are Wings have been able to pivot and find a way to get books distributed as well as giving me a safe way to continue my involvement.”