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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

This moment we’re in

Dear Book Harvest family,

What a challenging couple of weeks this has been for every one of us.

I write today for three reasons: to give you a brief update about Book Harvest; to thank you; and to share what has been on my mind this week.

FIRST, in compliance with Mayor Schewel’s Stay at Home order that went into effect last evening, we will no longer be providing books outside our Rockwood office or accepting donations of books until the order is lifted.

This is a really tough development for us: giving books is in our DNA – to the tune of 1.3 million since our launch – and is woven into everything we do. AND this temporary restriction is absolutely the right thing to do, for the health of our community. We applaud Mayor Schewel for his leadership. We will resume our bountiful sharing of books with children and families just as soon as it is safe to do so. Please check our website for updates.

SECOND, I am touched by how many of you have reached out to me to ask how the Book Harvest team is doing and how our families are doing. I am buoyed beyond measure by the care and concern of my empathetic and bighearted colleagues and friends. Thank you for caring so deeply about us and about the kids we serve.

Our community is awesome – and we WILL emerge from this challenge stronger than ever.

THIRD, I have been thinking a lot this week about a conversation I had with a mom, and I feel compelled to share it with you. She was puzzling over how to homeschool her two kids — while working fulltime from home, while worrying about the health of her elderly mom, while figuring out how to get groceries, while not knowing how long this situation will last. She felt overwhelmed and ill-equipped for all of the tasks in front of her – especially, as she shared with me, for the most important task of all: keeping her kids learning and thriving.

Her love for her kids was evident, as was her unwavering determination to do right by them even at this traumatic time. She is a hero. If her experience is also yours, you too are a hero.

To this mom: even before schools closed, you were already your children’s first teacher. The everyday loving interactions you have had with your children since the day they were born have nourished them far more than any classroom instruction can. The task of shouldering your children’s education that was thrust upon you when this pandemic shuttered schools is a Herculean one – but you can do this, because you have been doing it all along, and you already know everything you need to know to be not just their first teacher but their best teacher.

Talk with your kids. Ask questions and listen to their answers. Read and discuss beloved stories. Sing songs together. Play games such as I Spy and Hide and Seek. Simple interactions are what fuel learning. And if you’re looking for inspiration as you do this important work, visit our Learning at Home resource list on our website, which we are updating regularly with great free resources for families and kids of all ages.

And how’s this for a silver lining? I predict that the days your kids get to spend with you as you stay at home together may be among the happiest times of their lives – and the fodder for treasured memories that will last a lifetime. They have time with YOU, the center of their universe. What could be better?

I received this card from a child a few months ago; it lives on the wall above my desk, a testament to the power of love between parent and child – precisely what will carry families through this challenging time:

As my colleague Ralph Smith of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading noted in a message yesterday:

The urgent need to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the reality that parents are more than the proverbial “first teacher,” brain builder, coach and advocate. They are the launch pad, the backbone and the backstop of last resort.

At Book Harvest, we believe in parents. We see the love you feel for your precious children. We are here for you, and we will do everything in our power during this difficult time to support you.

Book Harvest’s calling has not changed: we remain devoted to providing an abundance of books and literacy support to families and their children – from the day those children are born and for the first decade of their lives.

In this unprecedented time when sharing books is not an option, we are adapting our strategies and our core activities so that parents can continue to rely on us for the tools and support they need to create a home that is filled with the joy of language and reading. I look forward to sharing more about how we will adapt to meet children and families where they are in the weeks ahead. And if you have ideas for us, please share them with me!

Remember, parents: You are heroes. We believe in you. And we are here to help.

Please stay safe and well.

In solidarity and with much hope,

Ginger Young, Founder and Executive Director

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