09:50 AM

Community Impact: Books for Keeps

Recognizing literacy as a key to success for young minds, Books for Keeps works to keep children on track during the summer by providing books for them to read during the break from school.

Based in Athens, Books for Keeps received an $8,500Jackson EMC Foundation grant for its Stop Summer Slide program at Whitehead Road Elementary School. Grant funds were used to purchase books so that every K-5 student gets 12 books to enjoy over the summer while maintaining their reading skills.

Since its founding in 2011, Books for Keeps has donated more than 650,000 books in Georgia. The Jackson EMC Foundation has supported Stop Summer Slide since 2013.

“Just as an athlete’s muscles will lose strength without continued exercise, so will a child’s brain,” said Leslie Hale, executive director.“By middle school, a full two- to three-year gap can open between children who read during summer and children who do not.”

To close the gap, Books for Keeps distributes books each spring to every elementary school student in Athens-Clarke County,where more than 90% of elementary-aged students are from households considered low-income by federal poverty standards.

“Students describe Books for Keeps Day at their school as‘just like Christmas,’” Hale said. “Teachers approach us with tears in their eyes to tell us what a difference this program is making in their students’ lives and in their schools.”

With schools closed in spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Books for Keeps moved its in-school book fair to a book selection process online and delivered books to students’ homes with the help of numerous volunteers. This spring, the online process continued with books delivered to schools in time for students to get them for summer break.

“This demonstrates the strength of our partnerships with the schools and organizations like the Jackson EMC Foundation,” Hale said.

For more information, visit booksforkeeps.org.