Yesterday

By Ginger Young, Founder and Executive Director

Just for a moment, I allowed myself to shed a few tears on Monday.

In a normal year, Monday would have signaled the kickoff of Books on Break, the beloved Book Harvest program to get books to elementary school students in time for summer. Held in school libraries all over Durham and beyond, and staffed by hundreds of volunteers like you and me, Books on Break has sent 389,883 books home with young readers since it began in 2012 — just the tools kids need to stay on track academically, and just in time to nourish their brains during the long weeks of summer.

And yet…with school doors shuttered, we knew that Books on Break 2020 could not go on as planned. Canceling our plans to get books into the hands and homes of young readers just when they need them most was doubly hard for us: this is the longest summer ever for our kids, starting way back in March — and the nourishment of books is more needed now than ever.

But we refused to admit defeat. Rather, we knew that we HAD to find another way to keep learning alive for our kids.

And we did: yesterday, we launched Well Fed, Well Read Durham, in conjunction with Durham FEAST and our dear friends at the Durham Public Schools Foundation. I was there at the launch of this partnership, cheering from behind my mask as volunteers loaded meals into the cars of drivers bringing nutritious food directly to the homes of families across Durham. With those meals went bags of books.

Take that, pandemic!

Every Wednesday in May, Durham FEAST volunteers will deliver books along with food to families’ front porches. Throughout the month, more than 700 children will each receive a bag of age-appropriate, lovingly curated books to help make sure their brains are being filled alongside their bellies. These books will help fuel their imaginations and take them all over the world, even while they are staying home.

Here’s the brutal truth: this summer will be more devastating than ever to kids’ academic progress. So my amazing Book Harvest colleagues and I are working tirelessly to figure out how we can continue to bundle books with food for kids throughout the long weeks ahead, right up until the fall. Stay tuned!

The ways we reach kids and families look different now, for sure. But, at a time when the need for a comforting bedtime story and getting lost in a great book is more urgent than ever, we are determined to continue to fulfill our commitment to being there for children and families.

And I have glimpsed something stunning this week: the power WE — you, I, all of us — bring to this challenge, fueled by our belief in our kids and their heroic parents, our incredible partners, our thousands of volunteers, financial donors, and book donors, is far, far greater than any virus.

Together, we WILL find ways to keep learning alive and to support our kids and their imaginations during this difficult time. I invite you to join us in whatever way works for you:

Whatever you can do, I promise your heart will be full and the world will look a little brighter.

My tears from Monday? I am done with those. There’s work to do. I hope you’ll join me.