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October 25, 2017, Flint, Michigan – If you believe that young people have lost interest in books, a visit to Flint, Michigan, might change your perspective. There, in about a year and a half, children have taken home between 12,000 and 13,000 books, thanks to the efforts of Monica Horton, a tutor and board member of St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Literacy Center.
Monica recently retired from her years of service as a science teacher. Still wanting to be involved in education, she became a tutor and then a board member at N.E.W. Life, where Sister Carol Weber, OP, serves as Co-director.
“I tried to think of ways that we could help the community,” Monica said. Noting the “plethora” of children’s books at the Center, she decided to put them in buckets and give them out in restaurants. But, she discovered, “Our population isn’t going to restaurants, but soup kitchens.”
She and her husband, Jim, began leaving buckets of children’s books at soup kitchens in the Flint area. “We found out that the buckets consistently were empty” shortly after the books were left, Monica said. “My husband and I happened to work at a soup kitchen and we watched the children go to the buckets before they even went for food.”
Monica said she relies a great deal on help from her husband, who helps distribute the books, and on N.E.W. Life, which has become a collection hub. She also has turned to the local Flint community for continued donations, putting notices in local parish bulletins. Local community members have been very supportive of the project, some donating new books and other “scouring garage sales and finding places where there might be good books at a reasonable price,” Monica said. “It’s been magical. Every time we get low on books, we get a donation we never expected.”
Community members have also responded in other ways to help the cause. Volunteers from the Genesee Intermediate School District’s transition center for impaired adults “come and sort and clean the books, put stickers on them, and put them on shelves according to grades.”
There are many positive benefits to the Book Buckets, Monica said. For example, the books bring children and adults together, offering parents the opportunity to read to their children. “Some in the population can’t read, but everybody can say, ‘Show me the kitty,’” Monica noted.
Monica and the literacy center board are especially excited about the impact that Book Buckets is having on the children of Flint. “We’re changing people’s lives, one child, one bucket at a time,” she said. “We’re starting early with the children. If we can make reading not a job, but something exciting, interesting, and fun, then when they go to school they might have a totally positive attitude.”
New or gently used books for children in pre-school through eighth grade can be sent to Book Buckets at St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center, 3115 Lawndale Avenue, Flint, Michigan 48504.