During the summer, the majority of children are out of school and not concerned about the upcoming academic year. Often children lose the knowledge they learned in the previous school year during the warmer months in a phenomenon known as “summer slide” or summer learning loss.
Organizations like Books for Keeps want to combat that.
On Thursday, Jan. 24, Books for Keeps of Athens will host its second annual Bunco for Books event to raise money for the nonprofit organization.
The event, which is taking place at Athens VFW Post, is from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and will be a night full of games, door prizes, free food donated by several businesses around Athens and a silent auction of 30 items. Tickets can be purchased on their website for $25.
“We are playing a game called Bunco, which is a dice game totally by chance ... and there will be door prizes during that,” said Patty Booth, chair of Bunco for Books and a board member of Books for Keeps. “We will also have about 30 silent auction items and all proceeds go towards Books for Keeps.”
Books for Keeps, which started back in 2009, is an organization aimed at raising money to purchase books for children to read over the summer, so while they’re not in school, their reading level will still be advancing by having books available to them at home their families may otherwise not be able to afford.
It currently benefits 18 elementary schools around Athens, including one school in Warren County, two in Elbert County and two in Atlanta, according to Camilla Bracewell, board vice president of Books for Keeps.
Bracewell said Melaney Smith founded Books for Keeps.
“Melaney founded Books for Keeps because her niece didn’t want school to be out [over the summer] because it meant she would have no books to read,” Bracewell said. “So the idea was to give them books in spring to read over the summer.”
When Books for Keeps works with elementary schools, each child gets to choose 12 books which they’ll get to keep, according to Bracewell.
Bracewell also went on to explain how it’s been shown that the children they’ve donated books to have returned to school in the fall with improved reading levels since they had the resources to read at home due to Books for Keeps. And while the nonprofit works with elementary schools, Bracewell said they’re “still waiting to work with two more elementary schools in Athens.”
Leslie Hale, executive director of Books for Keeps, talked about how the organization has come a long way since its beginnings in 2009 as a grassroots organization. Books for Keeps officially became a nonprofit in 2011 and now has three full-time employees, not to mention the thousands of books they provide to children each year. Hale was the first paid employee of Books for Keep and started working for them in 2013.
“In terms of [the] pure number of books given away, we donated 95,000 in 18 schools last year, and 450,000 total since 2009,” Hale said.
Books for Keeps has also gained Athens-wide support, as two sororities on campus work directly with fundraising money for the organization, as well as businesses around the city such as Avid Bookshop and Allstate insurance firms which serve as book donation drop off locations.
“We had 1,200 volunteers in 2018,” Hale said. “Volunteers are really important in us accomplishing our mission.”