John Rey remembers reading about an Arkansas project that tried to improve literacy by giving children in low-income homes their own bookcases and small starter libraries.
Rey bookmarked the article in August 2011 and was inspired to start a similar project by spearheading the DeKalb/Sycamore Bookcase Project for children of the Two Rivers Head Start program in Sycamore.
“[I thought] it was a very practical project that would be doable in the DeKalb community,” said Rey, who is the project chairman.
Last year, the new initiative provided more than 50 preschoolers with locally constructed bookcases complete with personalized nameplates and a bag full of books. The program will present 50 more Head Start preschoolers with their own bookcases and minilibraries in May.
“People step up in various ways throughout the community, and that’s exciting to see that volunteer contribution effort,” Rey said. “We’re in a very giving community.”
One of those volunteers is Carol Abrahamson, who joined the project in December and currently serves on the book donation committee. Abrahamson joined the project because she believed strongly in literacy.
“It is just such an important skill for everybody as far as having a shot at the American Dream,” she said.
The project also encourages families to read together, which Abrahamson said is another reason she supports the effort.
Organizers hope to collect at least 1,800 books this year, allowing each preschooler to receive about 30 books. The program has received several hundred books already, but Abrahamson said they can never have too many.
The program is looking for age-appropriate picture books that will hold the preschoolers’ interests, as well as slightly more sophisticated books that parents and relatives can read to them.
There are some limitations on the types of books people can donate. The program discourages books affiliated with any religion or religious holiday, as well as books that are in poor condition.
Northern Illinois University elementary education students will go through the books in April to determine which books are appropriate for the children.
The children will receive their bookcases and books May 4 at the Literacy Banquet at Huntley Middle School.
“Hopefully they catch the love of reading, and that will save a lot of resources down the road,” Rey said.
Community members are encouraged to donate any new or gently used books for preschoolers ages 3 to 4 at various locations throughout DeKalb, including any DeKalb District 428 school.
What: Bookcase Project Book Drives
When: now - April 5
Where: DeKalb Lincoln Inn, 240 E. Lincoln Highway DeKalb County Housing Authority, 310 N. Sixth St. Resource Bank, 555 Bethany Road Resource Bank, 775 S. Annie Glidden Road Any DeKalb District 428 school
Malta Resource Bank, 201 State Route 38
Cortland Resource Bank, 10 W. North Ave.