By Benay Hicks
December 23, 2021
On November 29th, Book Harvest social media alerts went off and notifications started to roll in. Texts and emails from friends and colleagues followed. “Did you see that sweet family on Instagram!?” they’d say. The initial post features a gorgeous photo of four siblings happily holding books with a caption that reads: “We’ve been planning all afternoon and are so excited to share that we are OFFICIALLY running a Book Drive for @bookharvestnc 2022 Dream Big Event!”
What followed — and prompted another flurry of notifications and messages from Book Harvest fans — was a fun video revealing the details of their plan. In the minute-long clip, the four siblings adorably recount the who, what, when, where, how, and why of the Johnson Family Book Drive. One of the boys proudly declares, “Our family is supporting the 2022 Dream Big Book Drive!”
Meet the Johnson family: Caroline (Mom), Jamil (Dad), Anthony (13), Caleb (10), Olivia (8), Elizabeth (8), and their older brother Christen (18). A family that prioritizes community, literacy, education, and each other. When asked to describe her family of 7, Caroline says they are “fun-loving and full of life. We love to go on hikes at the Eno and enjoy visits to the Museum of Life & Science!”
Caroline has close ties to Book Harvest through her role as social media manager for Zarazua Painting, one of Book Harvest’s recurrent Dream Big sponsors. She’s also a former public school teacher and always ensured literacy was infused in her teachings. “When I taught first grade, I used literature every day in my classroom – whether it was during a reading, writing, science or social studies lesson or just a fun way to start the day,” she said. “I saw the impact that being exposed to reading at home could make on a child’s reading success.” She knows first hand how important it is for parents and children to have access to literature.
When it was time for her children to start school 7 years ago, Caroline transferred her teaching skills from the classroom to the home and became a homeschool mom. She reflects on that process and comments, “When selecting our homeschool curriculum, we chose one that involved quality literature being the core for teaching geography, cultural studies and of course, literature. When our kids were younger, the curriculum included daily read alouds and now that they’re older, they still read daily but do so more independently.” Through her classroom and homeschool experiences, Caroline became a fierce advocate for literacy access for all.
The five Johnson children grew up surrounded by books, and their current favorites include a wide range of fun stories about dogs, graphic novels, historical fiction, and informational books. Anthony, the 13 year old, enjoys The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer. Caleb, age 10, likes the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne. Olivia (8) loves All About Reading readers, and Elizabeth (8) likes the Biscuit book series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli & Pat Schories.
When looking for something fun and fulfilling to do this December to balance out their hectic schedules, Caroline proposed the Dream Big Book Drive. The kids jumped at the idea! The family has interacted with Book Harvest in many ways throughout the years. Jamil and Caroline volunteered at Dream Big in 2020, then returned in 2021 with their kids and received bags of books to take home. They also frequented Book Harvest throughout the pandemic to continue building their home library. And this year, they are officially centering their holiday season around book access. In addition to the book drive, the boys are also building a free little library for their neighborhood with their grandfather! A very book-centric holiday, indeed.
On December 22, Caroline and her kids drove to Book Harvest in a car filled with books. The Johnson Family Book Drive was only half way through and books were already filling every corner of their home! It was time to count and donate what they had so far…a whopping 400 books!
Their book drive will continue up until Dream Big on January 17, when the community will come together at Durham Central Park to donate, receive, and celebrate books. We hope you will join Book Harvest (and the Johnson Family!) at the organization’s 11th Dream Big event. It will take place from 1-4 PM and will include a drive-through option for both donating and harvesting children’s books. Learn more here.
Thank you to the Johnson family for enthusiastically embracing a love of literacy and book access. Book Harvest’s beloved community will never cease to amaze and delight us.