Books for Keeps blog

Meet board member Joan Prittie!

(part of a monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

Through Vicky Wilkins [friend of founder, Melaney Smith, and early board member] when I was teaching in the MPA program 8-9 years ago, before Leslie was hired. My class helped the board do some planning and also taught the board some fundraising fundamentals to help them obtain the resources needed to hire an executive director.

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

There was this initial work through my class and then a bit of a gap. I have now been on the board of directors for 5 years. I had previously met with Vicky and Melaney before the class project, but board service was the next move.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

Certainly the experience working with and getting to know Melaney and the early supporters helped me learn the story and get to know the mission. But also a lifelong love of reading instilled by my family played a big part. I want all children to have the gift of that experience [of loving reading] and have access to books.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps? (This can be a direct interaction or something you observed.) If so, tell us about it.

Yes. I was at a distribution at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, and I was checking in with a couple of little girls after they had made their selection of books.
They lived in the same federally funded housing community, and they had been very strategic in choosing their books. They chose all different books so that they could trade their books [...]

By |October 10th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member Joan Prittie!|

Looking toward spring 2020 – 20 schools and fulfilling big promises!

This is it.

This year and this milestone were a distant goal four years ago when Books for Keeps adopted its first true strategic plan. It was a pipe dream when I was hired six years ago. And when Melaney Smith, our founder, gave away the first books to a group of second-graders at Alps Road Elementary School in 2009, this was but a twinkle in her eye.

So it has been exhilarating to roll out this news with stakeholders over the past several months and to share it here: as of spring 2020, Books for Keeps will be in all 14 Athens-Clarke public elementary schools – serving a total of 20 schools across 4 Georgia counties.

That means if you have a child in Kindergarten through fifth grade at a Clarke County elementary school – no matter where he or she attends – that child will get to choose 12 books to bring home at the end of this school year. We’re meeting with parents at Chase and Timothy Road elementary schools in the coming weeks to share this news directly with them.

We’re also sharing this news on the heels of a banner year.

500,000 books given away since 2009! Celebrating 10 years!

But by golly, we’re gonna need all the help this community can muster to meet this goal. We need to raise an additional $40,000 from new sources and new commitments to make this a reality.

Is that a really big number for an organization with a budget of less than $500,000 and just three employees? It sure is.

Is it eminently possible? Yes – but only with the help of this incredible community that has helped us grow from a twinkle of an idea into a full-fledged, [...]

By |September 27th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Looking toward spring 2020 – 20 schools and fulfilling big promises!|

Meet board member Denise Payne!

(part of a monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

I was the opening librarian for JJ Harris Elementary School and was approached by Leslie about bringing BFK to our school.  As soon as she said 12 free books for every student—I was hooked.  I think that  was in 2010.

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

When my husband was offered a position at HB Stroud as the assistant principal, I had to leave the media center position there.   When Leslie learned of this, she and a former board member spoke with me about being involved in BFK.   It was a tangible way to stay connected to reading and the students of CCSD.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

As a child growing up in rural Mississippi, books were my windows to the world.  I want children to have access to the same joy that I get when reading.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps? (This can be a direct interaction or something you observed.) If so, tell us about it.

There have been too many to name.  From the standpoint of a media specialist–I think the most heartwarming times are when kindergarten students come in and choose the biggest books that they can.   They lug those bags proudly back to their classroom and pour over them.   As a mother, my oldest son participated in BFK and he still had a couple of books from a distribution. He is now a senior and can still vividly recall getting books from BFK distributions.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

A positive attitude, a willingness to [...]

By |September 13th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member Denise Payne!|

Meet board member Jamie Cumbie!

(part of a new monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

My employer, Wells Fargo. Our office volunteers each year at book distribution.

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

I have been on the board since January 2019.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

This organization has such a worthwhile mission and accomplishes it in such a fun way. I definitely wanted to be a part of it.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps? (This can be a direct interaction or something you observed.) If so, tell us about it.

This was my first book distribution season, and I already can’t wait for next year. I absolutely loved the students’ pure joy and excitement. It’s endearing to see kids dragging their bags while they’re still picking out even more books.

Have you worked with other non-profits in the past? Which ones?

We are fairly new to the area, but my husband and I support various groups particularly through Franklin College at UGA. We moved from IL, and there I was heavily involved in Rotary, the hospital foundation, the Chamber of Commerce and Western Illinois University.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

I have a lot of experience volunteering and being an active board member with a variety of groups. Also, I bring a different perspective being relatively new to the area.

Do you have a keen childhood memory related to a particular book? Or an experience with reading – to yourself or to a loved one?

I’m the youngest of 5, so I had several family members that would read to me and I was fortunate to have [...]

By |August 20th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member Jamie Cumbie!|

Meet board member Kathy Poss!

The following is a guest blog post by board member Kathy Poss, and part of our monthly board member spotlight series. Kathy is a retired school nurse and Elbert County resident, and the mother of two educators in area counties. As someone who hails from a family of educators for whom books have played a central role, she believes heartily in the importance of Books for Keeps.

One day a few years ago my friend Joan Prittie asked me to lunch. She told me about Books for Keeps and how it was expanding to Elbert County. I later joined the Board.

What a great opportunity to encourage and improve reading skills in children. I have always enjoyed books but realize not all kids have access. Call of the Wild and White Fang fascinated me as a young reader. Biographies were favorites. Clara Barton, Florence Nightengale, George Washington Carver were a few summer books.

I can’t pinpoint a pivotal book in my youth but I vividly remember reading The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls. The Razor’s Edge was in the headboard at my grandmother’s house, so I read it.  This summer I am reading John Adams and probably some historical selections. Though I can’t do it all, I adore DIY books.

My grandmother finished high school at 16 and became a one-room school teacher in a very rural area.  Some of her children were named for book characters. This was evidence of her love for reading.

My mother loved poetry and tried her hand at writing poetry.  The thing that reading did for my family was widen a world that had physical boundaries into a broad rich world of idea.

In a very small town we [...]

By |July 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member Kathy Poss!|

Meet Board Member Stephen Nobles!

The following is a guest blog post by board member Stephen Nobles, and part of our monthly board member spotlight series. Stephen joined the Books for Keeps board in January of this year, and by day, he serves as program registrar and data specialist with the Clarke County School District.

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Books for Keeps for me has been a dream come true. Not a personal dream for me today at my current age – but a dream that I had as a child who had a love for reading and a true belief in the power of books. I WISH when I was a child something like Books for Keeps existed!! I knew very little about the organization but was immediately intrigued when I learned about their mission, goals, and the work they had been doing for children throughout the state of Georgia!
I know first hand the benefits that come along with a love for reading. Those benefits go so far beyond the words in the books. My mother was a huge advocate for literacy and literature and she instilled those same core values in me.

I have read to more than 1,000 students throughout the state of Georgia for my “LIT About Literacy” Program, and after meeting Leslie (Hale, executive director) and being introduced to the other amazing and passionate board members it was a no-brainer for me to align myself with Books for Keeps. To me it was a win-win!

I can remember the joy that came with finishing a book cover to cover. I can remember the first time I read Homer’s, “The Odyssey” and being instantly thrown into an amazing world of Sirens, cyclops, and the travels of Odysseus! I see that same [...]

By |June 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet Board Member Stephen Nobles!|

“I would cry if I didn’t have books. I love to read.” ~3rd-grade Books for Keeps participant

Sometimes we’re at a loss for words here at Books for Keeps. If you’ve met any of our three staff or our dozen-plus board members, you are probably laughing right now. Real hard.

It’s true, though. Sitting down to write this post, it was hard to figure out where to start – what to focus on. There was simply so much good to go around this year at book distributions that it’s hard to wrap our brains around – from giving away our 500,000th book (and way, way beyond) to celebrating 10 years to gathering new insights into our students reading habits.

We served the same number of students as last year (nearly 8,000) and gave away the same number of books (roughly 95,000), yet this year felt big in so many ways.

So, where to start in describing it?

This is where we fall back to those wiser and more eloquent than us: the children we serve.

Among our core values and core behaviors: (1) focusing on stakeholders as individuals and (2) creating joyful opportunities for children to become owners of books. They are our future voters and decision-makers. It really is all about them because – one day – the world will be in their hands.

“I’m so excited I could explode,” one fifth-grader told a volunteer at Whit Davis Elementary School. This, in response to a simple survey question asking about her level of excitement over her books.

For the first time this year, we sought to gather more information from our student participants – right at the moment when they chose their books. What are we hoping to learn?

How motivated are they to read their books?
How many of their 12 books do they expect [...]

By |May 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on “I would cry if I didn’t have books. I love to read.” ~3rd-grade Books for Keeps participant|

Meet board member, Leigh Dillard!

(part of a new monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

I heard Melaney speak at the TEDxUGA event in 2016, and I immediately knew Books for Keeps was something I wanted to be involved in. Melaney’s message of thinking small — rather than being intimidated into inaction by a big task — resonated with me, and the notion of giving books to kids was equally compelling. As a professor of English and advisor of Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society at UNG, I also knew that this would be a great project to pass along to my students.

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

I did my first book distribution at Oglethorpe Elementary in May 2016 and have volunteered in various facets of the process since then. I’ve also worked in the warehouse and with the book sale (and have been an enthusiastic book sale customer). I enjoy seeing how the parts function to serve the bigger mission of BFK.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

I was ready to increase my commitment to Books for Keeps and thought that serving on the board would be a good way to do that. The timing was right.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps? (This can be a direct interaction or something you observed.) If so, tell us about it.

Book distributions are magical. Last year, after helping one student at Stroud Elementary School count his books, he jumped up and gave me a hug. It was this wonderful, joy-filled moment that really stuck with me. The work of the volunteers is such a small part [...]

By |April 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member, Leigh Dillard!|

Meet board member, Jennifer Welborn!

(part of a new monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

Fenwick Broyard. Shortly after moving to Athens, I started volunteering at Community Connection of Northeast Georgia. Fenwick suggested I check out BFK. He thought they had a position open. I’m not sure if they did but I researched the organization, fell in love and started volunteering in the warehouse and eventually at the book sale. This lead to being on the Development Committee and subsequent ad-hoc committees which led to the Board of Directors!

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

Volunteering in the warehouse since November 2015. Book sale and Development Committee since 2017 and on the board since January 2018.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

Why would I not?! It’s such an amazing organization! Reading and education were always important growing up. Reading opens up windows of opportunities and without it your options are limited. I have worked in the human services profession and provided direct service to individuals who cannot read or struggle with reading. I have seen the effects of what happens when we do not take the time to teach children to read. It has lasting effects.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps? (This can be a direct interaction or something you observed.) If so, tell us about it.

At last years book distribution, a student picked out twelve of the heaviest books. It was so heavy it trailed behind her. The bag had to weigh more than the student. In general, just seeing the smiles on kids faces. They light up like a Christmas tree! It’s the best [...]

By |March 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member, Jennifer Welborn!|

2019 distributions sign-ups are live!

2019 Book Distribution sign-ups are officially live!  With your help, we’ll once more be giving away nearly 95,000 books to children at 18 schools in Athens, Atlanta, Warrenton, and Elberton. This is your chance to experience the joy of helping students in your community pick out 12 free books for summer – for keeps!

If you are part of a group (8 to 15 people) that would like to adopt and work an entire shift at a particular school, let us know now so that we can coordinate with you to reserve a shift. Email Program Manager
Justin Bray at justin@booksforkeeps.org

To sign up for a shift, simply click the name of the school and you’ll be taken to the GivePulse signup page for that school.

April 9-11, 2019: Elbert County Elementary School- Elberton, GA
– April 9th morning shift, 9:00am – 11:15am;  afternoon shift, 12:00pm – 2:30pm
– April 10th morning shift, 8:30am – 11:00am; afternoon shift, 12:00pm – 2:30pm
– April 11th morning shift, 9:00am – 11:30am; afternoon shift, 12:00pm – 3:00pm

April 18-19, 2019: Dunbar Elementary School- Atlanta, GA
– April 18th morning shift, 8:00am – 11:00am;  afternoon shift, 12:00pm – 2:30pm
– April 19th shift, 9:00am – 12:00pm

April 23-24, 2019: Fowler Drive Elementary School- Athens, GA
– April 23rd morning shift, 8:00am – 11:00am;  afternoon shift, 11:45am – 2:30pm
– April 24th shift, 10:30am – 1:30pm

April 24, 2019: Downtown Academy- Athens, GA
– April 24th shift, 12:35pm – 3:15pm

April 25, 2019: Benteen Elementary School- Atlanta, GA
– April 25th morning shift, 8:00am – 10:00am; midday shift, 10:00am – 12:00pm; afternoon shift, 12:15pm – 2:15pm

April 26 & 29, 2019: Gaines Elementary School- Athens, GA
– April 26th morning shift, 8:00am – 11:30am;  afternoon shift, 12:15pm – 2:30pm
– April 29th morning shift, 8:00am – 11:30am; afternoon shift, 12:00pm – 2:35pm

April 29-30, 2019: Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School- Athens, GA
– April 29th morning [...]

By |March 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on 2019 distributions sign-ups are live!|