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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

2,292 books, 23 Communities: National Night Out in Durham

If you were in the Southside neighborhood for National Night Out on Tuesday, you would have seen kids running from table to table wearing t-shirts with the words, “Stop Shooting, Start Living.” written across the front.

If you were in the McDougald Terrace neighborhood just a few hours earlier on the same day, you would have witnessed children dancing to music, exchanging vibrant dialogue, and huddling underneath the chorus of vendor-tents-turned-source-of-refuge from the rain.

The Book Harvest table in the Southside neighborhood received quite a bit of interest throughout the evening, mostly from C.C. Spaulding students. Many of them shared stories of the books they selected right before summer break through our Books on Break program, with Star Wars and Lego chapter books being some of the favorites. Each child who visited the table left with a bag stuffed full of books, even a soon-to-be third grader who had a “whole library of books at home!” As the start of a new school year quickly approaches, one rising second grader was most excited about the chance to “learn about everything.”

With all of the rain and mud at McDougald Terrace, Book Harvest took a Biblioburro approach to book provision, nixing the traditional table dynamic and using a wagon and boxes to bring the books to the children. Taking books to the kids as opposed to waiting for them to come to the table was surprisingly effective, and in less than two hours’ time, after buckets of rain, and beneath a faint post-storm rainbow, over 200 books were in the hands of residents and on their way into the homes that surrounded the event.

While Book Harvest’s role at both locations was to make sure all children in attendance had the opportunity to take home as many free books as they could carry, there was an even greater purpose behind this nationwide celebration: to bridge the gap between community and police and create a sense of safety for all, regardless of the neighborhood a person or family calls home.

Said our summer intern Emma Dieterle: “I will never forget the look of excitement on those children’s faces as they filled up their bags with books! I was not aware of National Night Out before coming to Book Harvest, and I’m so grateful that I was able to participate in it this summer. On multiple occasions during the event I found myself looking around in awe of the strong community within Durham that was there. Everyone knew everyone; it was one big family.”

Thank you, neighborhoods and communities of Durham, for welcoming us into your family celebrations — and happy end-of-summer reading!

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