"It absolutely astounds me how generous our community has been," Young said. "We are still emptying that book bin in front of our office multiple times a day."
Since the founding of Book Harvest in 2011, the organization has provided more than 1.3 million books to children across the state. Young said Book Harvest may have benefited this summer from people being stuck at home and cleaning off their bookshelves.
In previous years, Book Harvest distributed books through schools or informal learning sites, such as laundromats, barber shops and doctors offices. Young said now they use two new methods of book distribution: contactless pickup sites and partnerships with free food delivery programs, such as PORCH.
Young said Book Harvest was founded on the assumption that access to books is one of the simplest and most effective ways to increase child literacy and reduce the achievement gap.
David Dickinson, a professor at Vanderbilt University, said access to reading materials corresponds to improved educational outcomes.
"What we have discovered is that early language development is very predictive of later language development," Dickinson said.
He said one of the greatest predictors of academic achievement is whether books are read aloud to children from a young age.
Like Book Harvest, child literacy organizations in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have adapted as well.
Jenny Walters is the program manager for School Reading Partners, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools initiative where volunteers read with students.
"Since CHCCS is completely remote for at least the first semester, all School Reading Partners sessions will have to be done virtually," Walters said in an email. "Our program uses books in bags with question cards that help facilitate a conversation about books."
Walters said it is also important for the community to support teachers whenever possible — whether by donating to the Public School Foundation, volunteering or advocating for education funding to state and local governments.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, educators and child literacy advocates will keep confronting challenges.
“Now, more than ever, it is our job — it is our imperative — to keep learning alive,” Young said.
@DTHCityState | firstname.lastname@example.org