Hillcrest, school districts among nearly 40 agencies to benefit
By Ruth Liao • Statesman Journal • March 30, 2010
Marion County Children and Families Department distributes free books to partnering agencies such as Willamette Family Medical Center on Monday.
It may seem like an unlikely bedtime story setting, but every night, one of the staff members at Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility in Salem reads books out loud to incarcerated teen boys.”It’s amazing,” said Griselda Solano, a multicultural services coordinator with Oregon Youth Authority. “They like it, and they fall asleep after that.”On Monday, Solano was among nearly 40 agencies and nonprofits picking up free books collected during December’s community-wide book drive organized by the Marion County Children and Families Department. Marion County school districts also were part of the book drive’s recipients. Solano said she was excited to bring the books back to Oregon Youth Authority, especially as youths in their programs discover reading as recreation. The boys particularly like hearing the science-fiction fantasy series by Robert Jordan, Solano said. “It’s good to keep their minds active on something positive,” she said.
The book drive, called “12,000 Books in 12 Days,” exceeded its target goals and pulled in at least 32,000 books for children and youth. The book drive is part of the Mid-Valley literacy campaign known as Reading For All. “It’s so exciting to finally see this come full circle,” said Cathy Crocker, book drive coordinator with the children and families department. Crocker said the department relied on hundreds of volunteer hours to help sort the books and organize them into age-appropriate categories. Schools and programs serving children and youths then were asked to submit requests to the department for books. Some had specific needs: Critter-themed books, for example, were destined for Willamette Humane Society. Jenna Wall, a development assistant for the humane society, was on hand to help carry off boxes of about 250 books marked “pets.” The books will be used to create a reading corner for children waiting in the lobby, as well as the humane society’s new story hour featuring animals. The humane society offers a lending library, but it’s a few shelves of books, Wall said. “This has googled our library right here,” Wall said, looking at the dolly stacked with boxes.
Also picking up books Monday was Jacob Bailey, a coordinator with Salem Family Literacy Program. The program is part of Salem-Keizer School District’s early learning services, aimed at supporting low-income, low-education Latino families with young children as old as 5 years, as well as teen parents. Bailey said the books will go into circulation with the program’s lending library, as well as go out on home visits for the families to keep. “We’re able to give away books, no strings attached,” Bailey said. The program, which helps parents attain a high school degree or general education development equivalent, teaches families to make reading an everyday practice. One demonstration shows parents how it’s OK for young children to drop, or even kick books, as it can be part of the child’s development of play and learning, Bailey said.
Stephen Cox, a program specialist with the Salem-Keizer library media support services, took his time to pick through and sort books to benefit schools in the district, both for school libraries and classrooms. Cox said he was amazed by the quantity of books collected during the book drive, including several series of brand-new, hardback copies of literature classics such as John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.” “This is like Christmas,” Cox said.
rliao@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 589-6941