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Tuesday May 17th

Durham nonprofit Book Harvest holds annual MLK day book drive

<p>Volunteers count books at the Dream Big Book Drive in Durham on Jan. 17, 2022. Photo courtesy of Benay Hicks.</p>
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Volunteers count books at the Dream Big Book Drive in Durham on Jan. 17, 2022. Photo courtesy of Benay Hicks.

Durham-based nonprofit Book Harvest held its 11th annual Dream Big book drive in Durham Central Park on Monday.

The book drive takes place annually on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring its designation as a national day of service. Every year, Dream Big involves families, schools, local businesses and other groups to help provide books for children.

Benay Hicks, communications manager at Book Harvest, organized the book drive. She said in 2022, Book Harvest made the event hybrid — with contactless or in-person options.

Last year, the event was drive-through only due to pandemic restrictions. 

Community members who chose to attend in-person could enjoy refreshments from Mr. A’s Beignets and watch the Bouncing Bulldogs — a local jump-rope program — perform to a medley of songs.

Hicks said books are mostly donated by community members and distributed through partnerships with schools, laundromats and organizations throughout the Triangle.

Book Harvest’s Book Babies program also provides books and new bookshelves for participating families with young children in order to help them learn to read before they begin school, she said.

Yolanda Grant, a local teacher, is on the Dream Big planning committee and has been volunteering with Book Harvest for several years.

Grant said this year’s event succeeded compared to previous events because Book Harvest was able to host multiple book drives at the same time as the main event.

"This year we also offered a virtual book drive in which people could order books online and donate to their various book drives," Grant said.

The Dream Big book drive is also a way for other local schools and organizations to advertise themselves to community members. One of the schools represented was the Gift of Knowledge Academy, a private nonprofit K-2 school in Durham that serves primarily low-income families.

Gift of Knowledge Academy Executive Director Deborah Watkins said she has been working with Book Harvest since 2017.

At the book drive, Watkins and her colleagues distributed school scarves and informational flyers. The scarves were embroidered with a pro-school choice message — a cause that advocates for a parent's ability to choose a school for their child.

Watkins said Gift of Knowledge Academy wanted to participate in the Dream Big book drive because the school and the event both have the goal or providing access to educational resources for children. 

“We want to make sure kids are fluent in their reading by the end of second grade,” Watkins said.

Meytal Barak, Book Harvest’s director of early literacy, said she supports every aspect of the Dream Big book drive because it aligns with the nonprofit's mission to provide books and literacy support to families.

“That is the beauty of this book drive,” Barak said. “Books come from everywhere in the community and these books go back to the community to ensure all children have access to books and are able to create their home literacy environments.”

Sarah Wood, chairperson of the Book Harvest board, said the organization wanted to encourage people to donate books that represented a variety of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic identities at the Dream Big book drive.

This would allow children who receive books to feel represented in their learning, she said.

“We try to emphasize books with characters of all backgrounds, experiences and family structures,” Wood said. “In Durham, there are tremendous inequities on who has access to books and reading.”

Hicks said this year’s Dream Big event brought in nearly 10,000 books — bringing the monthly total to nearly 33,000. Any books donated to the drop-off boxes at the Book Harvest building by the end of January will be included in that total.

Grant said the Dream Big book drive has become a part of Durham that brings the community together.

“I think people are looking to serve and do something worthwhile,” Grant said. “You can just see the smiles on the children’s faces that are getting these books."

To contribute to the 2022 Dream Big total, community members can drop off books at the collection bins outside the Book Harvest office at 2501 University Drive in the Rockwood Shopping Center in Durham.

Books can also be purchased and donated through Book Harvest's online wish list.


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