If you think books belong only in schools, think again. Young children at the Franklin County Children Services Family Center in Columbus, Ohio, were beaming July 12 when AFT members distributed new books to them, and threw a party to celebrate the new library that will be available to other young visitors from now on. The books also will be distributed by social workers making home visits.
“It looked like Christmas day,” said Kathy Bruner, a child welfare case worker and executive vice president of the Federation of Franklin County Children Services Employees/AFT, describing the scene. Thirty-eight children and their families came through to see tables and shelves full of books, and adorned with balloons and stuffed toys. Local members took turns reading to the children, and then served them lunch.
“It was such a heartwarming experience to see the joy on their faces as they looked through each book,” said Bruner, noting that the population the center serves “has it harder than most, in this very difficult economy.”
The book distribution program is run in partnership with First Book, a nonprofit organization that works with 90 publishers to get free and low-cost books into the hands of children from low-income families. First Book has distributed 90 million books in the 20 years since it was founded, including high-quality, award-winning titles. The AFT has facilitated nearly 30 distributions with locals across the country, but the Columbus Children Services site is the first to be run outside a school.
At the Columbus event, some of the favorites were Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Green Eggs and Ham, Little House on the Prairie and Curious George.
Franklin County Children Services interacts with more than 29,000 families each year, investigating and providing services related to abuse and neglect; staff there are involved in setting up foster care and adoptions, assisting with independent living for older youths, organizing volunteer and mentoring services, and running a therapeutic arts program and holiday giveaways.
Giving away books is just one more way these AFT members are making a difference in the lives of children struggling with change. [Virginia Myers/photos by Alysia Steele]
July 17, 2012