Read this: Garner group gives more than five

kjahner@newsobserver.comJuly 3, 2014 

— In its second year, the Give Five Read Five initiative of state schools Superintendent June Atkinson more than doubled its collection, amassing 274,729 books donated to elementary students so they’d have something to read this summer.

Almost 10 percent of the books donated statewide were collected by a small group of youths from Holland’s United Methodist Church just south of Garner.

Each of the nearly 27,000 books collected and sorted by reading level went to students from all eight Garner-area elementary schools. The core group of about a dozen students and adults – led by Garner High School student Libby Bowes – received help from dozens more to help finish the job.

Bowes said she’s received gratifying feedback and thanks for being able to offer five books per student in Garner.

“I didn’t expect to have people in the community personally tell me they were excited, but we definitely had that,” the high school senior said.

Holland’s UMC’s then-pastor Brian Wellborn tapped Bowes and other students to offer a chance to give back and develop leadership skills.

The group’s success hinged on initiative and a smart collection and distribution plan. It revolved around multiple collection cites and a central sorting area. The group used a warehouse on U.S. 401 as a base, sorting the hundreds of books coming in each week. That made it easy for teachers and parents to find books that fit their children’s reading level.

Atkinson took note of the groups plans before the process went into motion. Department of Public Instruction spokeswoman Sara Clark said in February that Atkinson had been “blown away by what they had done.”

She was so impressed by the results that she offered Bowes, who will attend East Carolina University next fall, an internship. She will move around and experience different aspects of the department, from human resources to communications to finance.

In the meantime the department will attempt to continue to build on the project. Last year, 123,000 books were donated as the initiative got off the ground. Holland’s participated but with nothing near the concerted effort of this year. Before the drive they targeted 20,000 books, and easily exceeded that goal.

Atkinson hoped to help stem the summer regression in reading skills. Studies have indicated some students lose ground during the long school break, especially those not being encouraged to read at home.

Bowes thanked the broader community for providing support in the groups efforts.

“The most important thing for this whole thing for us is having people support you,” Bowes said. “There’s no way we’d have had as good a turnout as we did without support from our church community.”

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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