Mebane Foundation Awards Grant to Bookmarks to Bring 25,000 New Books to Winston Salem/Forsyth County Public School Libraries

Bookmarks Executive Director Ginger Hendricks inside the Bookmarks Independent , Non-Profit Bookstore in Winston Salem, NC

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.”

Author Roshani Chokshi with student Becket Koontz

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.

About Bookmarks
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.

 

Authors in Schools are Getting Winston Salem Kids Excited about Reading!

By Jeanna B. White

“Hello, how are you? May I PLEASE have a cat? — A tiger’s your reward for asking like THAT,” read Author, Kyle Webster, to the gasps and giggles of 90 delighted first graders at Moore Magnet Elementary School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Webster was reading his book, “Please Say Please!” to the students as part of the Authors in Schools program presented by Bookmarks, a Winston-Salem-based literary arts non-profit that fosters a love of reading and writing in the community.

At the end of Webster’s presentation, each student took home an autographed hardcover copy of the colorful picture book, and the school’s library received $1000 worth of award-winning and diverse fiction and non-fiction picture books that also included bilingual titles.

According to Literacy Company statistics, more than 20% of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level, far below the level needed to earn a living in today’s society. Forty-eight percent of young children in the U.S. are not read to daily. More than 13 million children under the age of 5 go to bed without a bedtime story. Bookmarks hopes to improve these statistics by bringing more authors into schools and by inspiring students to read and write.

Bookmarks provides these visits by local, regional, and nationally-known authors, illustrators, and storytellers at no cost to the schools. The program has reached 40,000 students since 2010 and has grown from 1,000 students per year to 9100 in 2017. This outreach is funded through donations and grants from individuals and other organizations with a passion for literacy.

Webster’s visit to Moore and four other Title 1 elementary schools was funded by a $25,000 grant from the Mebane Charitable Foundation, based in Mocksville, NC. The grant provided books for the 500 students who participated in the reading as well as more than 60 books each for the library collections. These students will also receive a visit from Stacy McAnulty and a copy of her book, “Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years,” later this year.

“I know what a difference it makes to have an author come into a classroom and to feel a book, touch a book and be able to ask questions of the author,” said Ginger Hendricks, Bookmarks executive director. “I still remember visits authors made to my classes in school.”

It’s great to be able to say that we served 9,000 students last year, but what the Mebane Foundation is allowing us to do is two visits with the same children this spring while also placing new books in the school libraries,” Hendricks said. “It excites us to be able to build on these students’ experiences. In addition, the grant allows us to give the children a hardcover book by the visiting author. Each book has a plate for the student to write his or her name. For many, this will be the first book they will own.”

Bookmarks’ Authors in Schools program fits in well with the Mebane Foundation’s mission of preparing children for life through literacy.

“One of the experiences I remember most vividly from my early years in elementary school was the opportunity to buy books at our school book fairs, and then the anticipation of waiting for them to arrive,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “If the Mebane Foundation can create that same love and anticipation for books and reading that I had as a child, we’ll have met our mission. Bookmarks has been a fantastic partner!”

When visiting authors interact with students, they answer questions about writing, the process of creating a book, their writing life, how to get ideas and write them on paper, and the importance of reading in their lives. These experts in the field of writing serve as role models and offer children goals for them to aspire to.

An accomplished illustrator who has drawn for The New Yorker, The New York Times, NPR, TIME, and hundreds of other distinguished editorial, advertising, publishing and institutional clients, Webster explained the illustrating process by showing the students how to draw the little girl in his book, or any other drawing, using circles, triangles, and rectangles.

He encouraged the students to try writing and drawing on their own, saying, ”No one is born with talent. Talent means that a person spent a lot of time doing what they loved and got really good at it. If you keep doing something, you will get good at it, and people will say you have talent.”

Webster was all smiles after answering questions from students and passing out the books. “I have so much fun doing this,” he said. “I just want to leave a positive impression. Even if just a few walk away and think ‘I can do that’ then it was well worth it.”

“Writing this book has definitely been the most enjoyable project I’ve worked on, and it has been the most satisfying because I continue to get to visit schools, read, and connect with these kids,” he continued. “None of the other work I’ve done has had that type of reward. Getting to put my book in each student’s hands and make that connection is a really great feeling.”

“Students need a purpose to read,” said Adam Dovico, Moore’s principal. “If that purpose is ‘Hey, I know the guy who wrote this,’ I’ll take that as a victory. Reluctant readers need that hook or buy in. Meeting the author presents a very good reason to want to read. As the kids were walking up the hall a few minutes ago, half of them had their books open looking at them.

Rachel Kuhn Stinehelfer, education and program specialist for Bookmarks, was thrilled to hear that and said, “One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to see children excited about books. Teachers and media coordinators share the success of these author visits with us — stating that the children check out more books from the library written by visiting authors and are more excited about reading after an author visit. We have also seen our participation triple from 2009 to 2017 in our Young Readers Central area at our Festival which further shows us that we are reaching and inspiring students to read and write.”

“By getting our youngest citizens involved in the literary community at an early age,” Hendricks said, “they will hopefully stay involved and continue reading throughout their lives.”

Bookmarks began as a book festival in 2004 as a project of the Winston-Salem Junior League. Over the years, the organization has evolved into the largest annual book festival in the Carolinas and has added programs including Authors in Schools and a summer reading program. In its 13 years in existence, Bookmarks has brought more than 750 authors, illustrators, and storytellers to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Last July, Bookmarks opened a nonprofit independent bookstore and gathering space at 634 W. Fourth St. For more information, visit www.bookmarksnc.org.