United Way hosts Spring into Reading book drive

Published 8:54 am Wednesday, February 27, 2019

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — United Way of Southwest Michigan is hosting a Spring into Reading book drive this March 2019 in celebration of National Reading Month.

In partnership with Berrien County Great Start Collaborative and Cass County Great Start Collaborative, United Way of Southwest Michigan wants to collect 5,000 new and gently used books from March 1-21 for area children and young adults.

There are nearly 40 drop-off locations throughout Berrien and Cass counties. They are listed at uwsm.org/bookdrive.

Books will be distributed through area home-visiting programs, tri-county Head Start programs, area shelters, strategic businesses, area food pantries and targeted agencies to get books in the hands of children during summer months.

“We are fortunate to have such a great outpouring from the community for this event,” said Julee Laurent, volunteer engagement manager at United Way of Southwest Michigan. “Last year we had a goal of 5,000 books and collected 10,000. This enabled us to put books in the hands of kids all summer long. We were able to distribute them everywhere from area ‘Meet Up, Eat Up’ summer meal sites, to area home-visiting programs, to supplementing summer rec sites and little free libraries.”

Any company or business that would like to collect books to add to the drive should email julee.laurent@uwsm.org.

The Great Start Collaborative is an early childhood community initiative that brings community leaders, business owners, charitable and faith-based organizations, health and human service agencies, educators and parents together to focus on families with children prenatal to age 8. Together, these groups work to provide a network of resources that seeks to help families obtain services that will allow their children to succeed in every facet of their lives.

“Studies show that exposing children to books at a young age, and having books to read at home, is one of the best ways to develop children’s literacy skills,” said Kristen Chism, director of Berrien County Great Start Collaborative. “However, many children living in poverty in the U.S. do not have access to books at their homes. This book drive will get books in the hands of kids who may not have had access before and open a whole new world of words to them.”

The Collaborative works to expand and enhance early childhood systems in Berrien and Cass counties and make progress toward early childhood outcomes including overall health, early academic development and school preparedness for children from birth to third grade.