Every year, the Chatham Education Foundation’s Books on Break program brings excitement, joy, and memories to children and adults, alike! It is a very heartwarming experience. The program is essentially a free book fair for students in some of our most economically disadvantaged schools in Chatham County. Depending upon their grade level, they select three to five books to help build their at-home libraries. As research shows, two-thirds of low-income families have few if any books in their homes.
This year we intended to bring this excitement to two additional schools, bringing our school total to four! However, due to the global pandemic and the unprecedented times that we are currently living in, our Books on Break program looked a little different this year. Instead of setting up the book fair at the four schools and being able to watch the excitement on the children’s faces as they got to pick their favorite titles and subjects we made a quick pivot. Three employees of the Chatham Education Foundation packed almost 1,800 bags for the students, organized by grade level. These bags contained almost 7,800 books!
With help from the Chatham County School’s (CCS) nutrition staff, we were able to change the program and set up books at four different food distribution sites. Each school looked a little different, but CCS staff still managed to safely distribute the books to many children. For those that did not receive their books on the first day, the schools will set up the books again on the material drop-off day at the end of the school year. CEF is determined to help these children remain engaged over the summer! Although the set-up was different this year, the students were still very excited to receive their books!
Making sure these students have books to read over the summer is always very important, but it is even more essential now. These students are not only facing the impacts of a pandemic, but also potentially not having the circumstances to maintain their at-home learning. This will put them at a greater disadvantage come the next school year. With the gift of the books, the students agree to read at least 20-30 minutes every day over the summer. This will help to keep them engaged and learning over the summer.
Thank you to our individual donors and corporate donors: Duke Energy, Carolina Hurricanes, McKim & Creed, and Rev. Margaret Crandall who sponsored the entire 6-8 graders! Without you, this program would not be possible! The impact we are making together is significant!