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Perspective | Book Harvest equips the next generation of readers through Dream Big

Although it looked a little different this year, Dream Big 2021 was just as joyful and exciting as ever, according to Book Harvest Founder Ginger Young.

Every year on MLK Day, Book Harvest celebrates the power of community and their big dream of books and literacy for all kids with Dream Big. This annual celebration is part book drive, part volunteer event, part community partner fair, part festival, and always a lot of fun! But the main goal for the day is to bring the entire community together in celebration of the organization’s big dream: that all kids can grow up in a world in which reading, learning, and access to information are considered rights, not privileges so that all children can thrive.

Due to COVID-19, the 10th-anniversary celebration was held as a contactless, drive-through event at Durham Central Park in downtown Durham. Over the course of four hours, more than 500 cars drove through the park to the cheers of book-loving stars like Wool E. Bull, Ranger Baldy, Princess Leia, a lovable tiny horse from Saddle Up and Read, and Ms. North Carolina 2021, Vera Morris. Hundreds of attendees dropped off donations of new and gently used children’s books. Others were there to receive children’s books to take home and keep forever. All were there to celebrate the life-long gift of reading.

Two volunteers in the Book Harvest truck. Courtesy of Scott Van Manen

Giving the gift of reading

“In a single afternoon, 40,753 new and gently used children’s books were donated to share with children in our community,” said Young. “Nearly 1,000 colorful string backpacks filled with children’s books were given to families and children to take home to read again and again and to keep forever – one small but important way to keep learning alive during this precarious time.”

She was touched by the community’s record-breaking commitment to the event despite the pandemic. A total of 65,188 books were donated to Dream Big in the month of January, a 55% increase over January 2020. This year also saw a 76% increase in book drive captains who stepped up to lead the massive effort, with 130 book drive captains — many of them children — signing on and stepping up.

“These incredible numbers make clear that our community stands with our children to keep learning alive,” she said. “Together, we will ensure that every child in our midst has the stories, the books, the words and ideas to nourish their hearts and minds during this trying time — and beyond.”

As part of its 10th-anniversary celebration, Book Harvest also shared the “Dream Big 2021 News Special,” a 25-minute heartwarming program that starred local children as newscasters and reporters. You can watch it here.

Courtesy of Book Harvest

“We are so grateful to our beloved community. THANK YOU to the 130 book drive captains who collected books leading up to the event; our 64 generous 2021 Dream Big Sponsors; our friends at Durham Public Schools, who shared the event with all the district’s students; dozens of volunteers; and, most of all, the parents and children whose love of reading – and learning! – were passionately on display and in action on that very special day,” said Young.

“Together, we are a community that keeps Dr. King’s legacy very much alive. And together, we are a community that is ready to do the hard work to ensure that every child can grow up in a home that is rich with books.”

It’s not too late to help!

While Dream Big is its largest book drive each year, Book Harvest collects and provides books to children in Durham and beyond all year long.

Young pointed out that a book drive is a terrific service project for schools, scout troops, congregations, civic groups, neighborhoods, book clubs, and workplaces. Book Harvest gratefully accepts new and gently used children’s books for readers ages 0-18.

“We especially love donations of board books, picture books, Spanish and bilingual books, and books that portray ALL children, honoring diverse backgrounds, languages, abilities, and perspectives, and including stories by and about people of color,” shared Young. “And if anyone would like to buy books for our kids, they can visit our wishlist!”

Jeanna White
Jeanna White is a writer for the Mebane Charitable Foundation in Mocksville. Ten years as a substitute teacher for students from preschool through high school has given her a unique perspective and passion for education. White graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism.