By Jeanna Baxter White
The Mebane Charitable Foundation has approved a grant of $200,000 to Bookmarks to support “Book Build: Fostering Connections by Building Collections,” a three-year, $450,000 initiative focused on infusing the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School libraries with current, culturally-relevant books.
But there is a catch ….. while $50,000 will be released immediately, $50,000 of the remaining $150,000 pledge is in the form of a challenge grant requiring the literary arts nonprofit to raise an additional $50,000 by December 31, 2018, in order to receive those funds.
“Bookmarks has proven to be a great partner for Mebane Foundation, and the size of this grant reflects my board’s confidence in them,” said Larry Colbourne, President of the Mebane Charitable Foundation. “I know the $50,000 challenge component will stretch Bookmarks, but I think the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County community will rally around this great project to ensure this $50,000 dollar-for-dollar match is not left on the table in 2018.”
Through Book Build, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School libraries will be infused with 25,000 new books (310+ books specifically chosen by and curated for each school). Among the most-needed reading materials are culturally relevant titles, books published in the last three to five years, and multiple copies of popular books. In addition, the Bookmarks in Schools program will arrange author visits, volunteer help, and funding for media assistant support to help process the new books during the semester in which they are received.
“This grant is a game changer for this initiative, and I am grateful that the Mebane Foundation believes in our efforts so strongly,” said Ginger Hendricks, Bookmarks Executive Director. “We have an amazing community that we believe will help us raise not only the matching funds but all the funds we need so our students will thrive.”
The first sets of books will be delivered this fall to elementary, middle, and high schools with a focus on schools designated as priority schools. Delivery of books to schools will continue through 2020 as Bookmarks continues to advocate and fundraise towards its goal until all Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools are reached. The books will expand the schools’ collection with new library books for check out and will be chosen according to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system’s selection guidelines with guidance from the media coordinators and teachers.
The school system has 45 elementary schools, 17 middle schools, and 19 high schools, for a The system-wide total is 81 schools with two new schools currently being built by 2020. For the 2017-2018 school year, the demographics in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools are: 40.2 percent of the students are white, 28.5 percent are African-American, 24.5 percent are Hispanic, 4.0 percent are multiracial, 2.5 percent are Asian, and less than 1 percent are American Indian or Native Hawaiians/Pacific.
Hendricks and members of the Bookmarks staff became aware of the need last spring while working with five Title 1 elementary schools to place $1000 of new books into each of their collections as part of the Authors in Schools program, also funded by the Mebane Foundation.
“We were amazed and quite saddened to see the number of books that were decades old and represented a different time and community no longer representative of Winston-Salem today,” said Hendricks. “Since the only access to books for many students is through their school library, we realized the best way to make an impact is to work with the public school libraries directly. Easy access to recently published books and books that reflect the readers’ interests can provide the impetus that leads a reluctant reader to become a lifelong reader.”
“Our hope for our work with schools is to offer young readers a realistic and authentic mirror of their own lives and experiences through books,” said Ashley Bryan, Bookmarks Youth and Schools Coordinator. “If children recognize themselves in the books they read, they will connect with the story, developing positive self-images as they grow into adults. Diverse books also offer global awareness and teach all students to celebrate, support, and ultimately understand other cultures and perspectives.”
“Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is fortunate to have such tremendous community support,” said Superintendent Beverly Emory. “We appreciate the commitment of organizations like Bookmarks to help provide relevant resources for our students. We are grateful for the opportunity to enhance our library collections with new books that reflect our rich and diverse population.”
“Academic success – if defined by high school graduation rates – can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing a student’s reading skill at the end of the third grade,” Hendricks added. “Those not modestly skilled by that time are unlikely to graduate from high school. With that in mind, our hope is to build on the amazing work of Project Impact and other efforts that are already going on in our schools to improve reading levels for young readers. We want to help students continue to read—and enjoy reading—throughout their time in school and into their adult lives.”
Donations for one year and multi-year pledges to “Book Build: Fostering Connections by Building Collections” may be made to Bookmarks online at Bookmarks Donations or by mail to 634 W. Fourth Street #110, Winston-Salem, NC 27101.
Bookmarks is a literary arts nonprofit whose mission is to connect readers with authors and books. It produces the Carolinas’ largest annual Festival of Books and Authors, a schools initiative, a summer reading program, and year-round author and reading events around the Triad community and in its nonprofit independent bookstore at 634 W. Fourth Street in Winston-Salem. Visit www.bookmarksnc.org.