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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Durham book drive encourages community service, promotes literacy

Published Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024


Originally published on dailytarheel.com


Since the beginning of December, book collection sites at locations across the Triangle, from grocery stores to churches, have opened for donations of children’s books. 


On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, local organization Book Harvest will gather all of the donations at a hybrid book drive and volunteer event featuring a DJ and a parade of puppet animals on stilts.


The 13th annual Dream Big Book Drive community celebration will be held at Golden Belt Campus near downtown Durham from 1-4 p.m., but collections continue until the end of January. 


Book Harvest, based in Durham, works to share books and spread literacy to all children, especially those who may not have access to literary resources, according to Chief External Relations Officer Benay Hicks. 


Started in Chapel Hill in 2011, Book Harvest expanded to serve the Triangle and other counties in North Carolina. The organization hopes to go nationwide with their efforts within the next couple of years, Hicks said.


Hicks said that Dream Big is one of the organization’s largest events. In 2023, there were over 2,000 attendees and over 65,000 books donated.


She said the community comes together to give books a new home while listening to music, eating food and interacting with the many activities and special guests. 


“It’s a big party,” Hicks said. 


Preparation for the party began in early December when Book Harvest started collecting books at various spots, including multiple Weaver Street Market locations in the Triangle. All donations are compiled at the event on MLK Day. 


Digital Marketing and Social Media Specialist for Weaver Street Market Portia Hackett said that their involvement started around three years ago as a way to help nourish the community on top of the market's usual healthy food options. 


After collecting books across the area, on Monday, it’s go-time. 


Cars line up at a drive-through to drop off books, where volunteers collect them and begin counting them, preparing them for storage and distributing them to people at the event. 


Various activities, free food and performances from Paperhand Puppet Intervention and the Bouncing Bulldogs — a children’s jump roping organization — will be available to entertain attendees, as well as the popular Durham Bulls mascot Wool E. Bull.  


“It's a good way to get the community to interact while promoting literacy,” Hackett said. 


Many books will go home with families during the event, but others will be donated throughout Book Harvest’s network of programs and locations, such as book boxes in parks, pediatrician’s offices and childcare centers.


“So there's lots of different spaces where we're actually taking these books and giving them a new life and a new kids home, which is really exciting,” Tabitha Blackwell, Executive Director of Book Harvest Durham, said.


While the event is filled with fun, service is at its center, Blackwell said. “This is a year-round volunteer opportunity for anyone who's interested to come and really be a part of something that's bigger,” Blackwell said. 


Hicks thanked the UNC community specifically for all the work that they have done to facilitate Book Harvest’s growth over the years, including running book drives. 


And after all, Dream Big takes place on MLK Day, recognized as a National Day of

Service. Book Harvest Events Manager Bria Davenport recognized the importance of holding the drive on this day. 


“What better day to encourage kids to dream and dream big than on MLK Day, and such a special way to do it through literacy,” Davenport said. 


For Hicks, access to high-quality books during childhood can help children learn to value themselves and those who are different from them. Literacy, she said, is one of the greatest modern civil rights issues of our time. 


“And that ultimately will create a more just and equal world,” Hicks said. “And so having this day on MLK Day is really sending that message that literacy creates equality and we're going to go ahead and make sure that happens. And we're not going to stop until it does.” 

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