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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC fraternity and sorority host book drive for local nonprofit

Drop boxes for the Knowledge for Brains k-12 Book Drive are located in the Carolina Latinx Center, Davis Library, the Student Union and the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

Jose Cartagena-Lanza Jr. said he couldn’t put the "Harry Potter" books down when he was in elementary school. 

“The imagination I had, the pictures, the stories I came up with in my head from reading that book — there's nothing that's been able to match that as I've gotten older,” he said. 

Cartagena-Lanza is the president of the Alpha Iota Chapter of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. at UNC, which is hosting the Knowledge for Brains K-12 Book Drive alongside the Kappa Omicron Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 

The book drive began on Sept. 11 and will run until Oct. 15. Drop boxes are located in the Carolina Latinx Center, Davis Library, the Student Union and the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

All books collected will be donated to Book Harvest, a Durham-based nonprofit working to provide books and literacy support to children and families across North Carolina.

The AI chapter of LUL, which seeks to serve as a leader in meeting the needs of the Latino community, hosted its first book drive last February. They hope to hold one every semester. 

Cartagena-Lanza said supporting children’s literacy is important to the fraternity because Latino kids often face challenges when it comes to reading due to factors like language barriers, lack of books tailored toward the Hispanic community or insufficient funding.

“Kids’ literacy is something that we find very important,” he said. “With our philanthropy being providing access to higher education, that starts at a young age. The sooner they can get their hands on these books the better.”

DST is the first Black Greek letter sorority at UNC. Morgan Jordan, the sorority’s social chair and political awareness and involvement chair, said the organization is committed to public service and is primarily focused on the Black community.

She said the group was excited when LUL reached out to collaborate on the book drive and added that the event aligns with their mission as well, especially since she and her fellow Deltas grew up as avid readers.

“Being able to reach out and help other organizations and other kids around the Chapel Hill community, and the North Carolina community, was something that we really wanted to do,” Jordan said.

Cartagena-Lanza said LUL chose to work with Book Harvest because the organization ensures that books go to children who do not otherwise have access to them.

Caitlyn Smith, Book Harvest’s associate director of community engagement, said lack of access to books is the biggest barrier to children's literacy development and that parent engagement is the top predictor for early childhood and lifelong academic success.

“If we're able to provide families with ongoing access to books, access to literacy resources, tailored support depending on what the families need, we can contribute to a world and a community where kids have what they need to thrive and succeed,” Smith said.

Book Harvest runs a variety of programs in order to support this mission, including creating “book hubs” and boxes that provide free books at everyday locations like health clinics, laundromats and parks. 

Smith also said one of Book Harvest’s core values is that children can choose what to read. She said the nonprofit is working to incorporate books that serve as "mirrors and windows for kids."

The phrase "mirrors and windows" refers to the practice of helping children see themselves and other worlds through literature, according to Book Harvest's website. 

At the end of the book drive, Cartagena-Lanza said the groups are planning to hold a bake sale to raise funds for Book Harvest. He also said he encourages students to donate any childhood books they no longer read or “hold dear to [their] heart.”

“Remember how you felt when you were younger and you wanted to read a book, and you could just go to your bookshelf and grab a book off the bookshelf and you could read,” Jordan said. “Some people don't have that.”

@dailytarheel |

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