Wednesday September 14, 2016

Book Drive: Help Us End Book Deserts

By Ione Damasco

Many of us are familiar with the problem of urban “food deserts”--areas where access to affordable fresh fruit, vegetables, and other whole foods is lacking. However, few of us have heard of “book deserts.” A recent study by NYU has defined “book deserts” as high-poverty neighborhoods where access to children’s books is lacking. Just as the body needs nourishment from healthy foods to ensure physical wellness, our minds need nourishment from literature, especially young children for whom early and sustained access to books is critical. A recent news release from NYU states, “Access to print resources—board books, stories, and informational books—early on has both immediate and long-term effects on children’s vocabulary, background knowledge, and comprehension skills. And while public libraries are critically important in giving families access to books, research has shown that the presence of books in the home is related to children's reading achievement.” While Dayton is known to have many food deserts, there are areas of the city that are book deserts as well.

The University Libraries Diversity & Inclusion Committee is partnering with The Conscious Connect, Inc. for a semester-long book drive to help end book deserts in the Greater Miami Valley Region. Our goal is to collect 1,500 culturally-relevant children’s books to be distributed throughout book deserts in the area. The book drive will run from September 19, 2016 through December 2, 2016. Books can be donated at Roesch Library, CMC in Fitz Hall, RecPlex, ArtStreet, and the Counseling Center. Selected children’s titles can be purchased for $5 or less from First Books.  Gently used books are also welcome—especially books that explore topics of diversity. Both partners agree that the Book Desert Book Drive’s emphasis on the type of books that children read are equally as important as having access to them in and of itself. “Too often the material that children are required to read do not connect with and relate to their experiences,” states Karlos Marshall, founder of The Conscious Connect. For this reason, the book drive has asked for eight selected children’s books that feature main characters that are Black and/or are written by African-American authors.

Although access to a wide variety of literature is often taken for granted on our campus, we recognize that there are many children, particularly children of color in our wider Dayton community who do not have that privilege. We hope that you will help us ensure the right of every child to be able to read by donating books to this book drive.

For more information contact Karlos L. Marshall (kmarshall2@udayton.edu) or Rachel Barnett (rbarnett2@udayton.edu) or visit TheConsciousConnect.org.

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