by BFK board member Deirdre Sugiuchi
(part of a monthly series)

When I first heard of Books for Keeps, I was a school library media specialist at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School. Melaney Cook-Smith had just piloted the organization at Alps Road Elementary. I knew that my students loved books and loved reading books but often did not have reading materials at home. I knew that the reason I was a strong reader was because I grew up in a home with lots of books. I wanted my students at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary to have the same opportunities.

It took a few years before there was funding for Oglethorpe to be a part of Books for Keeps, but once OAES was involved, the day they visited was hands down the favorite day of the year. My students loved being able to choose their own books, put them in their own book bag, and take them home to keep and read over and over. As soon as we got back to school in the fall, they would ask me when Books for Keeps was coming, even though they knew Books for Keeps wouldn’t visit until May. They were that excited about having their own books to read.

Recently I left education to focus on writing, but I was a school library media specialist for over a decade. I’ve always been passionate about getting kids excited about reading. Once I left teaching I knew I still wanted to be involved in promoting reading in Athens-Clarke County and Georgia at large. Joining the Books for Keeps board seemed like the best and most effective way I could make a difference.

I believe in Books for Keeps because I have seen the difference it makes. Books for Keeps makes reading cool! The students love the books that Books for Keeps chooses. They love sharing and swapping books with their friends. They love to discuss the titles that they are reading. The best thing is that Books for Keeps makes books available to all students, regardless of their income.

Even though I have left the library, I am thrilled to join the board of Books for Keeps. I’ve seen the amazing difference they have made in children’s lives and am very excited to be able to continue working with this organization in a different role.