Durham dreamers and readers celebrate MLK Day with donated books

With over 1.2 million books donated since its founding, Book Harvest continues its dream of promoting reading and learning

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream — and so does Book Harvest, a Durham nonprofit that hosted its ninth annual Dream Big Book Drive and Community Celebration last week.

“The Book Harvest dream is a world in which all children have books at home, and plenty of them,” Ginger Young, founder and executive director of Book Harvest, said in an email statement.

Over 1,000 visitors attended Dream Big at Rhythms Live Music Hall from 1-4 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Young said. A book drive, volunteer opportunity, activity fair and fundraiser all at once, Dream Big provided a string backpack for each child to fill with books that were laid out on tables throughout the venue.

Maria Paz Muñoz, an 11-year-old student at Sherwood Githens Middle School in Durham, said she was excited to read the new books she picked out. Maria’s grandmother, Nelly, said reading is “absolutely” important for children.

“All these books that are donated at Dream Big are vital to our ability to help children in Northeast Central Durham and across our entire community grow up in book-rich homes,” Young said.

Throughout the day, children also had the opportunity to join in on a YMCA-led Zumba class, watch the Bouncing Bulldogs jump rope team perform, make crafts with The Scrap Exchange, take pictures in a photo booth, enjoy food and get their faces painted.

Book Harvest, founded in 2011, gives books and provides literacy support to children and their families to encourage children to be lifelong readers and learners. Since its founding, the organization has provided over 1.2 million books to children across North Carolina.

Tabitha Blackwell, chair of Book Harvest’s board of directors, said that Book Harvest provides holistic support to the community it serves. “They actually ask the community what they want and what they’re interested in, and they engage with the community,” Blackwell said. “We want to make sure that reading and learning and access to information is something that’s considered a right and not a privilege.” 

Blackwell said that anyone can come into the Book Harvest office on University Drive to take books home for their children. “We’re really making an effort to be in community with the individuals who need it the most,” she said.

While Dream Big is Book Harvest’s largest annual event, the organization hosts many other events and programs throughout the year. This includes Wash and Learn Durham, where children are read to while their families visit laundromats, and Book Babies, where families in the program are given 20 new books each year from their child’s birth until kindergarten to get them ready for school. 

“Our role is to keep knowledge flowing,” Nadiah Porter, community partnerships manager for Book Harvest, said. “We’re everywhere — we’re in the schools, laundromats, departments of social services, housing, health centers.”

According to Young, over 30,000 books were donated at Dream Big this year.

“Some parents have to choose between electricity or a new book for your kid,” Blackwell said. “Here, you don’t have to do that.”

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