More than 1,000 books are on their way to young children who need them the most thanks to a donation from the Colonial Capital Kiwanis Club to Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools.
Bob Taylor is a Williamsburg resident and longtime member of CC Kiwanis. A few years back, for Kiwanis’ Day of Service, Taylor reached out to Felicia Highland, W-JCC Schools’ coordinator for family and community engagement, to see where he could help.
“One of the things with Kiwanis is we are first and foremost a service club, and I knew I wanted to do something with the schools,” Taylor said. “Dr. Highland recommended the Read Across America program, which was the first of several school programs we came to support.”
Another member of CC Kiwanis, Tom Hoekzema, is a former executive with children's book publisher Scholastic, and the company sends boxes of books to be given away at events like the club’s toy distribution program during the holidays each year.
It was during this year’s giveaways that Taylor said he got the idea to connect the two.
“I know we gave away at least 300 books during toy distribution and we still had leftovers, lots of leftovers,” Taylor said. “It didn’t take long for me to think to reach out to Dr. Highland to put those books to good use.”
According to Highland, it didn’t take her long to think of where those donations could do the most good.
“The Kiwanis Club has partnered with us in the past, we have an excellent working relationship, and it was still incredible when they approached us last year asking where they could make a major book donation,” Highland said. “We have Title I students, low-income kids who need help the most, where a book or two makes a world of difference.”
Once the details were finalized, more than 1,000 books were donated, with 600 coming from a single donation earlier this month from the CC Kiwanis Club alone.
“It has been amazing. This has afforded us a chance to have more resources and to better provide to struggling students,” Highland said. “Each of those books has been distributed by reading specialists in our schools, where depending on grade and reading level, they’re being distributed to the Title I students who need them the most.”
Those books have already been distributed to students in nine elementary schools and all four middle schools in the W-JCC School District, according to Highland.
For Taylor and the Kiwanis Club, they’re delighted to see the donated books in the hands of young readers who need them, but they’re also already looking ahead to what to do next. In early March, Taylor and several other Kiwanis members, along with their spouses, will read at two local schools as part of Read Across America.
“Last year I read ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee’ to a class of fifth graders. Some of these kids had never heard of poetry like this, which is why we do things like this,” Taylor said. “All of these things, they’re small parts of a whole effort to support reading in school.”
It’s an effort Highland says she is happy to have support in.
“We really appreciate the Kiwanis Club for the level support they’ve shown,” Highland said. “We can do great things in our schools because we have great partners like them.”
Sean Korsgaard, 757-968-1529, firstname.lastname@example.org, @SCWKorsgaard.