With the help of more than 1,400 donated books, local preschoolers have the opportunity to fall in love with the endless possibilities of reading.
“That’s what we want them to have, that enthusiasm about reading. It’s contagious,” said Patricia Banks, director of the WJCC Community Action Agency’s Head Start program. “Books take you anywhere you want to go.”
The initiative began at the Barnes and Noble in New Town, where manager Albert Kurtyka spearheaded a drive encouraging customers to purchase children’s books for the purpose of donating them to those less fortunate.
“When you’re able to put a book in a child’s hand that can’t afford it, that goes a long way,” Kurtyka said. “Your upbringing and your education really groom who you are.”
Running from Black Friday through the end of 2017, the program received an outpouring of donations. Kurtyka said he was shocked by the level of community support during a time of year where so many different causes are seeking support.
“It was a really nice gesture from the people of Williamsburg,” Kurtyka said. "They understand the importance of reading. They also know the importance of children who are less fortunate.”
In February, the business chose to present the books to Head Start, which serves kids ages 3-5.
Banks said such community efforts go a long way in helping her organization thrive.
“Working together with community partners is tremendous,” she said. “When the kids were on the floor opening the books, it was just heartfelt.”
The Head Start program features eight classrooms across three learning centers aimed at families living in poverty. Alongside laying the foundation for subjects such as science, Head Start encourages its 147 participating kids to visit the reading station to read with volunteers or on their own. It’s an effort to get them comfortable with reading prior to the start of kindergarten.
As the Head Start program works to engage young minds, Banks said successes such as the book donation program serve as a reminder to the community of the good present in the Williamsburg area.
“There are some really good, positive activities going on around here,” she said.
Kurtyka said the book drive will return in the fall.
“Our goal is to go even higher,” he said.
Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.