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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Books for Habitat: “Literacy Happens at Home”

By Daniele Berman, Book Harvest Operations Manager

(This article was originally published in the Durham Herald Sun in the “We Are Durham” section on Sunday, June 21, 2015:


On June 12, Book Harvest joined the Ni/Ngeh and Parrish families as Habitat for Humanity of Durham dedicated their new homes, built as part of the “Blitz Like a Girl” build in just one week.

This partnership between Book Harvest, which provides books to Triangle children in need, and Habitat, which brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope, launched this spring.

The Books for Habitat partnership began when Habitat volunteers Margaret and Miguel Rubiera proposed the idea of constructing for each Habitat family a unique bookshelf assembled from spare wood leftover from the house build. Thanks to ongoing generous donations from the local community, Book Harvest has now participated in five Habitat dedications, bringing boxes of new and gently used books for the children to choose from, enabling them to fill their new bookshelves with dozens of stories they will treasure forever.

Says Book Harvest board member and Habitat volunteer Christie Cavanaugh, “A place to hold and showcase books sends the message that literacy happens at home. And the visible excitement in children’s eyes as they select their books and place them on their bookshelves fuels passion for two partners working together to impact literacy in our community.”

Habitat home dedications are a gathering of dozens of people from the community. They range from the volunteer builders who create the new homes to neighbors who gather to welcome new families, and from sponsoring partners who contribute financial and physical support to friends and family members of the new homeowners. The new homeowners are presented with gifts both tangible and intangible — things like a YMCA membership and a bowl crafted from the wood used to build the home – and accompanied by blessings and prayers, well wishes, and plenty of hugs.

The Ni/Ngeh and Parrish families were visibly moved at their dedications, which included an inspirational song sung by a new neighbor, a team of visiting volunteers from Baltimore School for the Arts, and homes built by Garman Builders and Durham Building Company, entirely on donated time.

Myriad things go into making a house a home, and Book Harvest knows that a child’s home isn’t complete without lots and lots of books. As parents revel in their families’ new homes, Book Harvest wants the children moving in to revel in the stories that will fill their new bookshelves. The research is clear: Owning books is the number one predictor of academic success for children. It is a perfect piece, then, of Habitat’s families’ new start to add this critical building block of their children’s education to all the other building blocks of their new homes. And the children’s joy at receiving this gift of a new bookshelf stocked with books they have selected couldn’t be more obvious.

Of Books for Habitat’s second dedication, Habitat volunteer and creator of the partnership Margaret Rubiera says, “One of my favorite memories will long be the excitement that Mikaela showed when she opened her box of pre-selected books and found several that she had been wanting to read. Just knowing that we have been able to play a small part in encouraging her love of reading fills me with joy.”

Book Harvest is on a mission to saturate the local community with books. Whether through the Books on Break partnership with the public schools, which sent more than 25,000 books home with children for the summer in the past month; or through the Book Babies program, which provides Medicaid-eligible babies with a home library to prepare them for kindergarten and beyond; or through the Community Book Bank, which stocks shelves throughout the community in a variety of settings — social service agencies, community health centers, and now Habitat homes — the goal is very clear: Get books into the hands and homes of children who need them. Partnerships like Books for Habitat provide an essential avenue for accomplishing that mission.


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