The Mebane Foundation is pleased to share this exciting news from Book Harvest, one of our most valued partners. I met Founder Ginger Young back in 2017 and was impressed by her vision for early childhood literacy and her desire to ensure that all children have access to engaging, age-appropriate books in their own homes. Supporting her mission was an easy decision. Over the past ten years, Book Harvest has placed more than 1.6 million books into the hands of children in Durham and the surrounding area. Now, as Book Harvest enters its second decade, we will be cheering Ginger on as she pours that same passion and boundless energy into transforming the literacy landscape in other communities across the state and the nation. ~Larry Coulborne, President of the Mebane Foundation

GINGER YOUNG NAMED CEO OF BOOK HARVEST: New Role Sets Organization on Path of Expansion

Durham, NC, February 1, 2022 — Sarah Wood, Chair of the Book Harvest Board of Directors, announced today that Ginger Young, Book Harvest’s Founder and Executive Director for the past 10 years, has been named Chief Executive Officer of Book Harvest. In this new role, Young will develop key strategies to leverage the successes of the organization’s first decade in Durham, North Carolina to transform the childhood literacy landscape in other communities across the state and beyond.

Wood explained, “Our first ten years in Durham have proven that Book Harvest knows how to ensure that all children have access to free books from birth, to support families so they nourish their children’s early language development, and to create a community-wide culture of childhood literacy. Now more than ever – when less than half of all children who live in poverty enter kindergarten ready to learn – we have an imperative and an obligation to bring what we know to other communities.”

In her new role, Young will lay the groundwork for an expanded Book Harvest organization – one that realizes greater reach and impact in its flagship community of Durham and that catalyzes and maximizes its impact, scale, and policy influence beyond Durham.
“We have just celebrated our first decade of successes,” observed Young. “Since Book Harvest launched in 2011, children and families have harvested 1.6 million books to take home and keep, building home libraries. Our portfolio of programs to transform children’s literacy here in Durham starts at birth and reaches deep into our community. As we embark on our second decade, we are ready to work with other communities, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to be in even greater partnership with system leaders, policy makers, and other passionate childhood literacy advocates across our state and our country.”

One of the many letters Young has received from grateful children.

Today, Wood and Young will launch a search for an Executive Director of Book Harvest Durham, which will continue to be part of Book Harvest, Inc., responsible for taking its signature literacy programs to scale in Book Harvest’s flagship community and piloting new program innovations and policy initiatives in Durham (see the full job description at At the same time, Young will begin the work to expand the organization’s impact to other communities, a portfolio of initiatives that will include program replication, public policy engagement, and resource development.
“None of this would be possible,” added Young, “without a decade of formidable and robust partnerships in Durham – with community organizations, public and private enterprises, and, most especially, with the children and families whom we continue to serve and honor. We stand in awe of every child’s innate brilliance and boundless potential, and we are committed to unlocking opportunity and ensuring that every child everywhere has what they need to thrive in school and in life.”

About Book Harvest

Book Harvest provides an abundance of books and ongoing literacy support to families and their children from birth and serves as a model for communities committed to ensuring that children are lifelong readers and learners. Since its founding in 2011, Book Harvest has provided more than 1.6 million books to children and a wealth of literacy supports to parents in central North Carolina and beyond. Learn more at

Book Harvest Equips the Next Generation of Readers Through Dream Big

By Jeanna Baxter White

Although it looked a little different this year, Dream Big 2021 was just as joyful and exciting as ever, according to Book Harvest Founder Ginger Young.

Every year on MLK Day, Book Harvest celebrates the power of community and their big dream of books and literacy for all kids with Dream Big. This annual celebration is part book drive, part volunteer event, part community partner fair, part festival, and always a lot of fun! But the main goal for the day is to bring the entire community together in celebration of the organization’s big dream: that all kids can grow up in a world in which reading, learning, and access to information are considered rights, not privileges so that all children can thrive.

Due to COVID-19, the 10th-anniversary celebration was held as a contactless, drive-through event at Durham Central Park in downtown Durham. Over the course of four hours, more than 500 cars drove through the park to the cheers of book-loving stars like Wool E. Bull, Ranger Baldy, Princess Leia, a lovable tiny horse from Saddle Up and Read, and Ms. North Carolina 2021, Vera Morris. Hundreds of attendees dropped off donations of new and gently used children’s books. Others were there to receive children’s books to take home and keep forever. All were there to celebrate the life-long gift of reading.

Giving the Gift of Reading

“In a single afternoon, 40,753 new and gently used children’s books were donated to share with children in our community,” said Young. “Nearly 1,000 colorful string backpacks filled with children’s books were given to families and children to take home to read again and again and to keep forever – one small but important way to keep learning alive during this precarious time.”

She was touched by the community’s record-breaking commitment to the event despite the pandemic. A total of 65,188 books were donated to Dream Big in the month of January, a 55% increase over January 2020. This year also saw a 76% increase in book drive captains who stepped up to lead the massive effort, with 130 book drive captains – many of them children – signing on and stepping up. 

“These incredible numbers make clear that our community stands with our children to keep learning alive,” she said. “Together, we will ensure that every child in our midst has the stories, the books, the words and ideas to nourish their hearts and minds during this trying time – and beyond.”

As part of its 10th-anniversary celebration, Book Harvest also shared the “Dream Big 2021 News Special,” a 25-minute heartwarming program that starred local children as newscasters and reporters. You can watch it here.

“We are so grateful to our beloved community. THANK YOU to the 130 book drive captains who collected books leading up to the event; our 64 generous 2021 Dream Big Sponsors; our friends at Durham Public Schools, who shared the event with all the district’s students; dozens of volunteers; and, most of all, the parents and children whose love of reading – and learning! – were passionately on display and in action on that very special day.”

“Together, we are a community that keeps Dr. King’s legacy very much alive. And together, we are a community that is ready to do the hard work to ensure that every child can grow up in a home that is rich with books.”

It’s Not Too Late to Help! 

While Dream Big is its largest book drive each year, Book Harvest collects and provides books to children in Durham and beyond all year long. 

Young pointed out that a book drive is a terrific service project for schools, scout troops, congregations, civic groups, neighborhoods, book clubs, and workplaces. Book Harvest gratefully accepts new and gently used children’s books for readers ages 0-18. “We especially love donations of board books, picture books, Spanish and bilingual books, and books that portray ALL children, honoring diverse backgrounds, languages, abilities, and perspectives, and including stories by and about people of color,” shared Young. “And if anyone would like to buy books for our kids, they can visit our wishlist!”

More About Book Harvest

Book Harvest provides an abundance of books and ongoing literacy support to families and their children from birth and serves as a model for communities committed to ensuring that children are lifelong readers and learners. Their vision is of a world in which reading, learning, and access to information are considered rights, not privileges so that all children thrive. Since its founding in 2011, Book Harvest has provided more than 1.4 million books to children in North Carolina. Learn more at the Book Harvest website by clicking here.

Book Harvest’s Dream Big Book Drive

By Jeanna Baxter White

“Everyone needs to become a good reader so that when they are an adult they will have a better life,” said six-year-old Jade Vaughan-Bey during Book Harvest’s Dream Big Book Drive and Community Celebration held on MLK Day at Rhythms Live Music Hall in downtown Durham.  

Hearing such wisdom from a young child brought a huge smile to the face of Book Harvest Founder Ginger Young who exclaimed enthusiastically, “Jade gets it – that’s what this program is all about!” 

Jade Vaughan-Bey reads to her mother, Taquoia Street.

Getting Books to Every Preschooler

“The benefits of a book-rich home environment begin accruing at birth. If we wait until a child starts school, we’ve waited too long,” she explained. “The consequences of raising a child in a bookless home are direct, severe, and lifelong. And there are a lot of kids in our midst who don’t own books.”

Fulfilling the Dream

To combat the problem, and to fulfill her dream that “every child in our community should grow up in the presence of books, and plenty of them,” Young began collecting donated books in her garage. Soon she and a team of volunteers were supplying donated books to children and programs across Durham and Orange counties and Book Harvest was born.  As her dream grew, so did the need to collect more books. 

“Dream Big began as an experiment to see if we could collect book donations on MLK Day 2012; in our first year, we had several new bookshelves throughout the community that needed books every week, and we were working hard to bring in the donations to keep those shelves of free books for kids stocked. That first event brought in 10,122 books – and we were off to the races!”

Inspired by the Vision of Dr. King

“Today, Book Harvest’s annual Dream Big Book Drive and Community Celebration remains deeply connected to MLK Day, the day on which it has been held for nine years; we are inspired by Dr. King’s vision of a world in which every child has the chance to realize his or her full potential. This annual event is part book drive, part volunteer opportunity, part activity fair, and part fundraiser. But the main goal for the day is to bring the entire community together in celebration of the organization’s big dream: that all kids can grow up in a world in which reading, learning, and access to information are considered rights and not privileges so that all children can thrive.

Over 1,000 people showed up for Book Harvest’s annual Dream Big Book Drive and Community Celebration. This annual event is part book drive, part volunteer opportunity, part activity fair, and part fundraiser.

Harvesting All Year Long

“Book Harvest is here 365 days a year because books are an evergreen need. We come together once a year for this glorious celebration and hope people will remember us all year long. This is the one day when all of our communities are in the same space: families who are enrolled in Book Babies, families who harvest books from the laundromats and health centers where we stock shelves, families who’ve done book drives for us, local business leaders, elected officials, foundation staffs, and those who care about literacy. Everyone is out here.”

Building Home Libraries

This year’s Dream Big Book Drive and Community Celebrations was another amazing success. A total of 42,183 new and gently used books were collected during the event and throughout the month of January! 

“Imagine ALL of the home libraries those books will fill, the bedtime stories they will provide, the pride their new owners will feel when they put them on their bookshelves or bedside tables!” said Book Harvest Communications and Events Manager Daniele Berman. “But that’s not the only inspiring number I’m marveling at today:”

  • 1,113 people packed Rhythms Live Music Hall to volunteer and celebrate with us at Dream Big on MLK Day! (The largest number ever)
  • 74  neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and organizations ran book drives and collected new and gently used books to donate! (See the huge list here!)
  • Sponsors donated $116,100 to make Dream Big and Book Harvest‘s work happen year-round! (Check out all our sponsors here — including our first-ever Dream Sponsor, Hendrick Subaru Southpoint!  Special thanks to our other top sponsors: Duke University Libraries, Scholastic, Wells Fargo, Mebane Foundation, Written Word Media, and United Way of the Greater Triangle.) 

Rock Star Volunteers Support Literacy

An event of this magnitude requires an army of volunteers. Young is forever grateful for the passion and commitment of the volunteers who continue to show up, many of them year after year. This year, the first 200 volunteer slots posted were filled within 43 minutes! 

“In addition to being a great big celebration of literacy and books for all kids,” explains Berman, “Dream Big also represents a unique volunteer opportunity. Each year, the event provides a space where parents can volunteer with young children, coworkers can volunteer as a team, service groups can dedicate their efforts, and anyone who wants to is able to find a way to honor Dr. King’s legacy and engage in a meaningful way with our mission.”

Book Harvest’s Legacy is Empowerment

Jade and her mom, Taquoia Street, are two of those passionate volunteers. Young calls them “rockstars of promoting the cause.” 

Their involvement with Book Harvest began when Jade was a newborn. “A nurse came to my home and told me about Book Babies. She explained that once every six months, from birth until age five, a Book Harvest representative would deliver age-appropriate books to our house and would share tips about what my daughter should be able to do at each stage of development. As a first-time mom, I didn’t really know, so it sounded wonderful.” 

Street soon began attending Book Harvest events and got involved with collecting books for other children. Empowered by the effect the books have had on Jade, who was part of the first graduating class of Book Babies and is now an avid reader,  Street has begun sponsoring a summer reading comprehension camp for neighborhood children. “Who knew that getting free books for my child would develop into a passion of my own!”  

“It’s been an amazing experience. Now everywhere I go I’m screaming Book Harvest,” she said with a smile. “I’ve adopted their mission of making sure that children of all economic levels have the same opportunities and access to books.”  

These Volunteers Share a Passion for Educating Youth

She’s not the only volunteer who feels that way. “I think every kid should grow up in a home with books,” said long-time volunteer Holly Brown who has worked with Book Harvest for the past nine years, including serving as vice-chair of the board, as well as on several committees. “Without books, children can’t reach their full potential. We don’t know who might be the next Marie Curie, or the next Thurgood Marshall, Ida B. Wells, or Albert Einstein.” 

Members of the Triangle Park Chapter of The Links, Inc. have been faithful volunteers for Dream Big since the first year.

Other dedicated volunteers included members of the Triangle Park Chapter of The Links, Inc., a  service organization committed to enriching, sustaining, and ensuring the cultural and economic survival of African-Americans and other persons of African ancestry; this group has been volunteering and providing financial support to Dream Big since year one. 

Dozens of volunteers help sort and pack books. at Book Harvest 2020

Dozens of volunteers help sort and pack books. 

The group’s philanthropic endeavors are divided into five facets, one of which is Service to Youth. This facet focuses on helping youth of African ancestry discover and reach their full potential, explained  Bernadine Cobb, Service to Youth co-chair. “We believe in the importance of educating our youth, and Dream Big falls right in line with that. This has been my first year to volunteer and I didn’t know what to expect, but when I walked in I thought ‘Wow! I won’t miss another year!’ ”

The event was equally exciting for first-timer Beatriz Morales who volunteered through her employer, Crescom Bank. She brought along her daughters, Hannah Morales and Valerie Aquirre, to help sort books because she thought Big Dream would be a great opportunity for the family to be involved in the community together.

All agreed they would definitely be back. While sorting, teenaged Hannah was amazed to find a copy of her favorite book while growing up and was thrilled that she would be allowed to keep it, demonstrating the power of a book.  

Working Towards the Goal

“Too many kids lack access to books. Yet this is a problem we can fix. And Book Harvest is doing just that,” said Young. “We are fixing it with grit and intentionality, laying a pipeline of books that starts at birth and will, when we realize our big dreams, continue all the way to age 10 and beyond. And we are accompanying parents on their journey, providing them with books, literacy support, and information on brain development so that they can continue to nourish their children’s vast potential. What a joy and a privilege this work is for us!”

Check Out the Fun at the 2020 Dream Big Book Drive!

You Can Help

Book Harvest provides an abundance of books and ongoing literacy support to families and their children from birth and serves as a model for communities committed to ensuring that children are lifelong readers and learners. Their vision is of a world in which reading, learning, and access to information are considered rights, not privileges so that all children thrive. Since its founding in 2011, Book Harvest has provided more than 1.2 million books to children in North Carolina. Learn more by visiting their website.

Book Harvest’s Book Babies: Unleashing parent leadership at birth could lead to a lifetime of benefits

Note:  This article, by Mebane Rash, was originally published 11/22/2017 on Education NC (EdNC -Book Harvest’s Book Babies: Unleashing parent leadership at birth could lead to a lifetime of benefits ) and is republished below with permission.

“Not all kids go to sleep at night with a bedtime story,” says Ginger Young, the founder and executive director of Book Harvest in Durham, when Larry Colbourne of the Mebane Foundation and I visited her earlier this year. “And yet literacy begins with language.”

Young is imagining a new normal for newborns in Durham — and across our state and nation. It starts, she tells us, by unleashing parent leadership from birth. Both Young and Colbourne agree there is a “colossal failure” in our society between birth and grade three when so much of the brain develops, and both are investing in “coherent community strategies” to support these kids during this span of their lives.

Book Harvest started in Young’s garage back in 2011 where she collected donated books, premised on her belief in “the power of books to transform children’s lives.”

It begins with raising awareness so here is the pop quiz Young gives us:

Please fill in the two columns:

What percent of a child’s brain develops in the first three years of life?

Summer learning loss accounts for what percent of the income-based achievement gap?

What percent of a child’s life between the ages of 0 and 18 is spent in school?

What percent of our population are our children? What percent of our future are our children?

The answer to that last question is 100 percent. But income-based achievement gaps hold back too many of our children.

What if there was a way, wondered Young, to get any Medicaid-eligible baby kindergarten ready for $5,000? Book Harvest has several programs to promote literacy, but our visit focused on Book Babies.

Here is the basic idea:

Over five years, 120 new books + at least 12 home visits + a robust array of additional supports = a million words per year if a parent reads to their child for 15 minutes every day = kindergarten readiness

Book Babies is premised on this narrative: 1) you, the parents, are the experts; 2) we are here to support you on your journey; 3) your baby is capable of greatness; and 4) together we can make sure your child is kindergarten ready.

On the left, Meytal Barak, the team leader for Book Babies, talks to Manju Rajendran, a mother in the program who has a 17-month-old, Azadi. “Our kiddo,” Rajendran says, “she just got into it.” On the right, Young embraces the young mother.

Young tells us, “Authentic relationships. Trust. Showing up. Deep respect. It matters.”

Colbourne and I are both invited to go on a home visit. I visited this mom, Karen, her 2½-year-old Kayla and her 4-year-old brother Matthew. The mother does not have transportation so she is home bound during the day. Demonstrating the innate resourcefulness of parents, she covered an old pack-n-play to create a reading zone for Kayla. Barak’s excitement about this “micro-moment of brilliance” is palpable, confirming her belief that parents are the very best teachers for their children.

The Book Harvest staff is tenacious when it comes to making sure the home visits happen. They have a whole toolbox of ways to get them scheduled: text, phone, an alternate phone, email, driving by the home, and as a last resort the family’s pediatrician. They make the home visits happen on the family’s schedule not theirs, which often means they happen at night or on the weekends. This video unpacks the elements of each home visit:

Evaluations of the Book Babies program look promising. As excerpted from a report by Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy:

“…Book Babies children show advanced knowledge of emergent literacy skills such as print knowledge and phonological awareness. This finding demonstrates that the Book Babies program is successfully targeting the key early literacy skills…. Exposure to these skills is critical for kindergarten readiness, later reading ability, and future academic success. … The findings of this evaluation are both encouraging and exciting, as they indicate that the Book Babies intervention has unique potential to positively impact the literacy skills of Durham’s youngest children.”

The Center for Child and Family Policy is conducting a randomized control trial on cohorts of 180+ babies in 2017 and 2018 over five years to evaluate the Book Babies interventions and, if warranted, establish the evidence-base necessary to scale the program across North Carolina and beyond.

This Thanksgiving, engage a child in your life using the goals of Book Babies:

as you read, name objects, actions, and emotions;

let the child hold the book and turn the pages;

sit close to the child;

use an animated voice and expressions to engage and interest the child;

ask simple questions;

make everyday connections;

AND instead of screen time, have a conversation and play games with the child.

Perhaps you will enjoy it as much as the Book Babies parents:

“Each time, you teach me something different that motivates me more.”

“This program is something very beautiful.”

“I am very thankful, this has helped me a lot with my children.”

Young reminds us, “the stories we read to our children become their stories — touchstones that help children shape their identity and their sense of their place in a complicated world.”