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Durham literacy organization Book Harvest looks to expand

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Book Harvest, a Durham-based nonprofit focused on book distribution and early childhood literacy, is looking to expand past its home turf.

Over the past 10 years, the organization has given 1.6 million books to children and launched several initiatives, including Book Babies, a literacy-focused home visiting program for children’s first five years. It is now planning to reach other communities across North Carolina and beyond.

Ginger Young is moving from executive director to CEO and looking for an executive director in Durham so she can explore how to meet other communities’ needs, as well as how to influence statewide policy.

“We stand in awe of every child’s innate brilliance and boundless potential, and we are committed to unlocking opportunity and ensuring that every child everywhere has what they need to thrive in school and in life,” Young said in a press release.

This year, the organization will prioritize capacity-building and, Young told EdNC on Monday, listening.

“We’ve become super attuned to actually asking parents what they need before delivering something, which I know sounds really elemental, but we all tend to jump past that step if we’re not careful,” Young said.

Young pointed to Book Babies as an example, which has improved parent-child reading habits in Durham and Winston-Salem.

“I will not declare a Book Babies demonstration pilot replication model until I know a lot more about the needs of other counties — in particular rural counties — which I’m obsessed with growing to understand better,” she said.

As the organization delivers services in more communities, Young said, she is eager to learn how to shape policy for larger change.

“I really don’t want us to just keep doing isolated individual examples when in fact we know that every child needs to grow up in a home that is rich with books from birth,” Young said.

Young started the organization out of her minivan in 2011, “having no vision for where it could go, just doing it,” she said. She has Durham to thank for the first decade of its work, she said. “Every step of the way, the community showed up in droves and led me to the next step.”

Young said she sees possibility in addressing systemic challenges from the organization’s work in transitioning children into kindergarten, providing books for children during summers, and creating early childhood college-and-career savings accounts.

“There’s no reason every single child can’t have a home library that just thrills them and that makes them unstoppable in their love of reading and learning, and that’s the work to be done,” she said.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.