Books for Keeps to Raise 82,044 Books for Athens Elementary Students

Athens, Ga. – Oct. 4, 2011 – Athens non-profit Books for Keeps announced today it will attempt to raise 82,044 books for Athens children by May 2012. “Our 2011 elementary school program provided 12,000 books to 1,000 children,” said Books for Keeps founder Melaney Smith. “We keep thinking about the thousands of kids we didn’t reach. We decided to go for it – let’s reach them all in 2012.”

To raise funds for this ambitious goal, Books for Keeps is holding a book sale October 21-23 at Stiles Properties, 1658 South Lumpkin Street, in Five Points next to Local Jam. “We’re selling the books we can’t use for our program to raise funds for the books we need,” said Smith. “We have thousands of books for adults and kids, and they’ll be priced to sell.” Donors are encouraged to bring books for the youth program or the book sale to Books for Keeps’ Drop-Off Day, Saturday October 15th from 9am-12pm at 1658 South Lumpkin Street.

Books for Keeps gives books to students in pre-K through 12th grade to prevent an academic achievement loss known as summer slide. “Research has shown that kids who don’t read during the summer often return to school lagging 2-3 months behind their classmates,” said UGA reading researcher and Books for Keeps board member Dr. Jennifer Graff. “The gap compounds every year, often affecting children from low-income families at an alarmingly disproportionate rate. By giving books directly to kids, we enable them to read all summer and hopefully mitigate summer slide.”

The organization is poised for success in 2012. Books for Keeps received its IRS certification as a public charity this summer, and was awarded a $5,000 grant from The Gammons Foundation to purchase books for the 2012 program. Fire and Flavor, an Athens gourmet grilling products company, has opened its warehouse to Books for Keeps. “Warehouse space was a big roadblock for them,” said Fire and Flavor owner Davis Knox. “We’re providing space to accommodate well over 100,000 books.”

Word about the Books for Keeps program is spreading beyond Athens. Smith was invited to represent Books for Keeps at Clinton Global Initiative’s CGI America conference in June, where she committed to reach every child in Clarke County School District elementary schools with 90% or more of students qualifying for free/reduced meals. Donors mail in books from around the world, and individuals, businesses and civic groups outside of Athens are holding book drives.

“82,044 books will allow us to provide 12 books to every child attending a Clarke County School District elementary school,” said Smith. “We’ll continue to provide books to middle and high school students too. It’s definitely an audacious goal, but I believe Athens will rally to help us.”

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About Books for Keeps: Books for Keeps started as one woman’s effort to help a child who loved to read but had no books at home. It grew into a grassroots movement to end summer slide in Athens by ensuring children have access to books during summer. Books for Keeps distributes books to Clarke County School District students ranging from pre-K through 12th grade. The elementary school program is based on a University of Florida study that found giving economically-disadvantaged elementary school children 12 high-interest books each at the beginning of summer had an impact on reading achievement statistically similar to attending summer school.

Editor’s Note: Photo included of Books for Keeps founder Melaney Smith pictured with President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative’s CGI America conference in June 2011. Smith was invited to attend the event that brought together individuals and organizations working to together to forge solutions for the world’s most pressing problems.