Pam Leo is a family literacy activist, the author of Connection Parenting and a new poem, and future children’s book, Please Read To Me. Her enduring love of children’s books, her passion for literacy, and her commitment to empowering parents are combined in her new role as the founder of a grassroots literacy movement, the Book Fairy Pantry Project, whose mission is: To put children’s books in the hands of all parents so there will be… No Child With No Books.
What inspired you to initiate the Book Fairy Pantry Project?
On Sunday, April 24, 2016, I wrote the poem “Please Read To Me – a child’s plea for love and literacy.” That poem was a gift. I don’t normally even write poetry. So, I began to Google family literacy programs to see who was supposed to receive this gift and came across some startling statistics. A few days later I heard on the news that they were gearing up for a food drive for the food pantries and suddenly it came to me: Collect donated books as well as donated food and give those books out at the food pantries so ALL parents can have books to read to their young children, so ALL children will be ready to learn to read. I decided to initiate a grassroots family literacy movement that would be implemented by the people, for the people.
Book Fairy volunteer reading to children at a food pantry in Maine
How does the project work?
Each participating food pantry, or WIC office, will receive donated new and gently used, quality children’s books from their local community via book donation boxes placed in the local schools, day cares, churches, and libraries. Book Fairy helper volunteers will collect those books and deliver them to their food pantry where more youth and/or elder volunteers will sort, clean, and shelve the books for parents to pick out for their children when they come to get food. It also provides us with an opportunity to share information from the Read Aloud 15 MINUTES National Campaign on the importance of reading aloud every day for 15 minutes, starting at birth and continuing through 3rd grade.
The other way to get donated books will be book drives. We can partner with food drives and get double benefit for everyone’s efforts. There is no shortage of gently used children’s books, only a lack of the redistribution of them. This project provides many opportunities for volunteers of all ages and gives children a chance to help other children by donating their outgrown or already read books.
What are your goals?
That ALL parents have books to read aloud to their children and the 10 million children living in poverty in this country, who currently do not have one book to call their own, will receive food pantry books and not arrive at school needing to recover from a lack of books. I would love to see the Book Fairy Pantry Project go statewide to every food pantry here in Maine, and then, “as Maine goes” so goes the project, nationwide, then worldwide. “Books change children’s lives…for good.”
My hope for this project is that the “right” people — those who feel as passionately as I do that learning to read is a human right — will hear of the project and use whatever influence they have in the world to help the book fairy and me to “make it so.”
To find out how to start a Book Fairy Pantry Project in your area, go to http://www.bookfairypantryproject.com/how-to-start.html.