By Sarah Whitman
Senior staff writer
When a child opens a book, a door to a whole new world is opened.
Now through the end of April, Goodwill-Suncoast will host a book drive to benefit the BookWorks childhood literacy program. The program promotes childhood literacy by delivering books to children at Head Start programs in low-income areas.
“BookWorks gives books to children who otherwise might not be able to afford them,” said Chris Ward, marketing manager for Goodwill-Suncoast. “We send volunteers to read in Head Start preschool classrooms and when story time is over, we give each child a book of their own to take home.”
More than a thousand children throughout Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk and Pinellas counties receive books each year. In order to expand the program into more classrooms, people need to donate books. Donations are now being collected at all Goodwill-Suncoast stores and donation centers, including the new Cypress Creek location in Wesley Chapel, now the Pasco County headquarters for BookWorks.
“Books should be new or like-new storybooks geared toward children age three to five,” Ward said. “Illustrated books are great but there should be a story too.”
No used or religious-themed books will be accepted. Some favorite books include “Thomas the Train” and fairy princess stories. Children also love books about animals.
Carolyn Duffy, lead teacher for Head Start in New Port Richey, said her students can hardly contain their excitement when it comes to BookWorks. A volunteer from the program visits her classroom twice a month.
“They are so excited the morning they know a storyteller is coming to read a book to the class,” Duffy said. “Then, they get to go home with a book.”
For many of the children in Head Start classrooms, a book from BookWorks is the first book that’s their very own.
“I’ve had parents ask when they have to return the book and when I tell them it’s to keep, they can’t believe it,” Duffy said.
Duffy said having a book to read at home is important.
“It encourages families to read together,” she said. “When parents read to their children, it is the beginning of a lifetime of reading.”
Ward hopes to collect enough books so that volunteers can visit more Head Start locations on a bi-weekly basis.
“The children in some of the classrooms have had volunteers coming to their schools for so long, they have started their own little libraries,” Ward said. “It’s wonderful.”
Ward said BookWorks is in sync with Goodwill’s overall mission.
“Our mission is to help people achieve their full potential through the power of work,” Ward said. “Literacy is an important factor in being successful in life and in the work force.”
For information on BookWorks or to find out how to volunteer as a storyteller, call (888) 279-1988.
- Local Goodwill sites
- 2390 Willow Oak in Wesley Chapel
- 25013 Village Lakes Shopping Center Dr. in Land O’ Lakes.