Waterbury Literacy Nonprofit Distributes 40,000 Kids' Books During Pandemic | 802 Much | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Waterbury Literacy Nonprofit Distributes 40,000 Kids' Books During Pandemic

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A student in Richmond enjoying her new books - COURTESY OF THE CHILDREN'S LITERACY FOUNDATION
  • Courtesy Of The Children's Literacy Foundation
  • A student in Richmond enjoying her new books

Anyone with kids knows how difficult WFH life can be during a pandemic. But a local nonprofit has tried to make things a bit easier for families.

Since March, the Waterbury Center-based Children's Literacy Foundation has given away nearly 40,000 books to kids across Vermont and New Hampshire. The gesture is all the more important at a time when kids have been isolated and soaking up screen time, said Erika Nichols-Frazer, the foundation's communications manager.

"Our program partners have gotten really creative with it," Nichols-Frazer said. "Some of them send books home in meal packages or with other learning materials; others have done curbside pickup ... So we're making sure we're still getting them books at this time, which is obviously more important than ever."

The foundation's mission, according to its website, "is to inspire a love of reading and writing among low-income, at-risk, and rural children up to age 12." Nichols-Frazer said the pandemic has made that a more urgent undertaking. Such groups of kids are the most likely to fall behind when they aren't in school or are learning remotely. 

Earlier this month, the foundation launched its Year of the Book program and donated $25,000 to schools in Chelsea, Windsor, Danby and Clarendon, as well as J.J. Flynn Elementary School in Burlington. Each student at those schools will receive 10 new books they may keep and will participate in virtual and in-person readings and workshops with local authors and illustrators. The school libraries, classrooms and even the local community libraries will each receive cash to buy new books, Nichols-Frazer said.

Despite the pandemic, she said, a group of volunteers in the Waterbury area has continued to help put nameplate stickers in each book so the kids can personalize their reading materials.

"It might sound small, but it's an important thing for these kids to own books," Nichols-Frazer said. "A lot of the kids we work with don't have their own books, and so having that little sticker in there that says 'This is my book' is kind of a special thing for them." 

The original print version of this article was headlined "Booked Up"