When Trion Brown’s daughter, Z’mia, came bounding home with a tote bag full of books one day after school last spring, she was excited for her daughter, a kindergartener. But, she was also a little apprehensive.

“When I started seeing the princess books, I thought, ‘Oh, Lord, how am I going to afford all of these books?” Trion recalls. “We’re going to have to return these books and it’s going to break her heart.”

Then, Trion read the letter from tucked in with the books. It explained that the books were Z’mia’s to keep – from Books for Keeps. That they would help Z’mia’s brain expand and grow stronger during the summer. And, that every child in Z’mia’s school – all 400 students at Dunbar Elementary in Atlanta – got to pick out 12 books each and take them home, just like Z’mia, thanks to the efforts of Books for Keeps.

“She told me that she had picked them out herself,” Trion says. “She read the titles out to me. I knew that she could read, but I was amazed at how well she could read.”

That night, Trion and Z’mia read together all evening. They read until it was almost time to get up again, Trion jokes.

And then summer came, and Z’mia kept reading.

“This summer, she picked up books more than anything – more than a toy,” she says. “I don’t think her involvement in books would be as much if it weren’t for the books she got in the spring.”

And then fall came. When Z’mia entered the first grade, she received a reading assessment. Z’mia’s teacher was starting the process of putting students into groups according to their reading levels.

“Z’mia blew out all of the reading levels,” Trion says. “(The teacher) had to establish a new reading level for Z’mia.”

For Trion and Z’mia, the books that Z’mia brought home from Books for Keeps not only established a deeper bond between mother and daughter, but they also strengthened Z’mia’s reading abilities.

“She knew big words and she could read on a big-girl level,” Trion says. “She blew me away. The books absolutely helped.”

It has brought the importance of reading in their home into sharper focus, too. Trion says that they had just a few books at home before Z’mia brought her Books for Keeps books home in April. While they live near a library, Trion says that getting to the library when it’s open is a struggle because of her work schedule – so the books they received from Books for Keeps have been a saving grace.

They still read them together – and look forward to Z’mia receiving more books from Books for Keeps next spring.

“She keeps on going back to them, and I even have a favorite one,” Trion says. “She can’t put down the princess book, and the Barbie book – well, all of them, basically.”

Books for Keeps gave books away at Z’mia’s school for the first time in Spring of 2014. It is one of 10 elementary schools served by Books for Keeps, and the students there will receive books again in the spring of 2015.

Help Books for Keeps reach children like Z’mia by making a donation today. Just $25 sponsors a child, providing him or her with 12 high-quality books and a tote bag to carry them home.

In the spring 2015, Books for Keeps will serve 3,800 children in Athens, Atlanta, and Warrenton, all of them attending schools with a high percentage of families living on or near the poverty line.