The Sarasota Housing Department and Sarasota County Libraries joined forces this summer to make book deserts a thing of the past. Beginning in June, the two organizations set a goal to distribute 2,500 free books over the summer to children who live in the public housing communities, where many of the families live in extreme poverty.
"Instead of it being a book desert, where these families don't have children's books in their homes at all, we are literally trying to make it a book-rich environment in not only their homes but their neighbor's homes and in the children's library in the building," said William Russell President and CEO of Sarasota Housing Authority.
The book-rich environments initiative was launched in January and book distribution began, in earnest, in March of this year. Nearly 4 million low-income children are living in HUD-assisted housing across the country. BRE aims to foster a love of reading and to improve educational outcomes of children living in HUD-assisted housing by distributing free, high quality books to children, promoting literacy activities offered by local libraries and nonprofits, and by strengthening partnerships between Public Housing Authorities (PHA), local public libraries and literacy partners to develop and deliver programming to improve educational outcomes of PHA residents.
PHAs across the country have long embraced the ideals behind the Book-Rich Environments Initiative, taking up the challenge to increase reading proficiency and improve the overall academic achievement of children in low-income families becoming bright spots of this nation-wide commitment with unique programs tailored to their community.
Sarasota concluded it's summer campaign on August 9th with a "Back to School Bash", where they offered books, backpacks, school supplies and library cards to families. Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading were a part of the festivities, offering children summer reading programs.
The Book-Rich Environments Initiative is just getting started and with partners like these, it's going to change lives!
If you'd like to learn more about the Book-Rich Environments Initiative: