Inspiring Young Readers
Promising Pages: irrigating the book desert
Close friends of us here at the Letterpress Project - Kay and Michael Reid – left the UK over two decades ago for a new life in North Carolina, USA, eventually settling in a wonderful house in the bohemian district of the state’s biggest city, Charlotte. Having raised two fine sons, and being a bit of a book and craft aficionado, Kay found herself with time on her hands and decided to start volunteering for a ground-breaking book project called Promising Pages.
The aim of the project is set out with admirable directness on their website:
“Promising Pages is a nonprofit organization that collects new and donated books and shares them with children living in the Charlotte Area Book Desert: those with few, if any, books at home. Our mission is to provide ownership of books to underserved children and cultivate a lifelong love of reading through innovative literacy programs and partnerships. Fueled by studies showing that children who can’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school, Promising Pages provides direct classroom programming and more than 190,000 free books annually, making us Charlotte’s largest and most efficient distributor of upcycled books aimed at addressing this critical – and solvable – community need.”
We have followed the fortunes of the project with great interest, getting regular bulletins as part of our frequent Facetime and WhatsApp communications with Kay and Michael – and we’ve had plenty of colourful stories of life in the sorting warehouse that we should probably keep to ourselves to save red faces all round (let me just say that there’s a great video of Kay trying to get out of one of the huge boxes that the donations arrive in!).
The most important thing about this project is the values it espouses – ones which closely reflect those of Letterpress. In our own way we too have, on a much smaller scale, committed time and resources to the idea of spreading book ownership and the appreciation of the printed book amongst children and their families where book ownership is threadbare for one reason or another. Our experience suggests that often parents understand how important and valuable books are to their children but they simply don’t have the income that allows them to afford the books – even at second hand prices. We often forget that committing even comparatively small amounts of money to books can mean missing out on other essentials that the family may need.
Promising Pages have a really impressive roster of partners and funding agents that enables them to operate on a fairly substantial scale – making their ambition to bring books to the ‘desert’ areas where book ownership is so low an ambitious and, hopefully achievable, goal. But as is always the case, impressive though their budget is for a community project, it’s never enough to do everything and the input of volunteers like Kay is essential for expansion.
Attached to this short article is a pdf of Promising Pages most recent newsletter and it will give you an excellent flavour of what the project is all about. We’d love to see a project like this take root here in the UK and I’m sure there would be plenty of volunteers for it here.
We are hoping that when the Covid tide eventually washes away and we are able to travel again, we can get across to Charlotte to see our friends and we’d love to spend some time at the project helping out as best we can.
Read much more about the project by clicking the link below