Durham nonprofit Book Harvest receives ARPA funding to expand its reach

Durham-based non-profit Book Harvest provides new and used books in “book boxes” around the City.

New federal funding means they’ll be able to expand their reach, adding more than 60 new boxes.

The non-profit has 14 boxes throughout Durham, but over the next three years, they’ll add four times that number.

Durham City Councilors voted to allocate more than $340,000 for new boxes and books.

“People in the community know Durham as the City of Medicine, and what we are hoping to do is make it the City of Books,” explained Durham Book Harvest Executive Director Tabitha Blackwell.

Blackwell said the non-profit wants to meet families where they are. Book Harvest recently conducted a survey.

“We found that 94% of the parents that were going to these book boxes were actually returning and coming more often to the book boxes,” Blackwell said.

The non-profit works with families from birth, connecting a love of reading to language development.

“We want to be able to impact that 3rd grade reading level, and one of the best ways to do that is starting earlier within a child’s life,” Blackwell said.

Six year-old Jabari Noell is learning how to read.

His aunt Sonya Cameron hopes the book box outside his elementary school will stir students’ curiosity in reading.

“If nothing else, they’ll see it and wonder, want to explore what’s in these boxes and what’s going on,” Cameron said.

Noell chose a new book today.

“I’m going to read it with my mommy,” he said.

Cameron believes the boxes can counter the negative impacts of the pandemic.

“I have been hearing that the national average for math and reading is down for our kids,” she said.

Book Harvest will be purchasing more than 48,000 new books to fill the additional 62 boxes.

These new boxes will go all around the city of Durham, including in neighbors that have been directly impacted by the pandemic.

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