2017-12-08 / Community

‘Book Fairy Pantry Project’ comes to Cape

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


The Thomas Memorial Library has teamed up with The Book Fairy Pantry Project and the Cape Elizabeth community to provide new or gently used books to Judy’s Pantry at Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church to make sure families that use the pantry have books at home, an early indicator of school readiness. (Courtesy photo) The Thomas Memorial Library has teamed up with The Book Fairy Pantry Project and the Cape Elizabeth community to provide new or gently used books to Judy’s Pantry at Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church to make sure families that use the pantry have books at home, an early indicator of school readiness. (Courtesy photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – Thomas Memorial Library has long been a place for parents and their young ones to read together, but now the library, through the goodwill of residents, is working to make sure parents and children have that opportunity at home as well.

The library is partnering with The Book Fairy Pantry Project, to collect children’s books to be handed out with fresh produce and other food items at Judy’s Pantry, a space at Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church that is open, free of charge, to Cape Elizabeth residents who are struggling to put healthy meals on the table for their families.

Rachel Davis, Thomas Memorial Library assistant director and youth services librarian, said she first heard of the Book Fairy Pantry Project in February when its founder, Pam Leo came to a book launch of “Still a Family,” a picture book written by Maine author Brenda Reeves Sturgis.

“It is important for kids to have their own books and be surrounded by books,” Davis said. “Her idea was this would be a guaranteed way to get books into the hands of kids who may need them and not have them otherwise.”

“There are 10 million children living in poverty in this country that do not own even one book. There is no shortage of gently used children’s books,” Leo wrote in an email to the Sentry.

“Parents cannot read to their children if there are no books in the home. In Maine, one in four children is food insecure, and one in four children is not learning to read. There is a correlation. Whether or not children learn to read will affect their standard of living and their quality of life. We can solve this problem for free. There are food pantries in every community, so the infrastructure for distribution of donated gently used children’s books is already in place. If the schools, churches, day cares, libraries and workplaces in every community collect book donations, we can end illiteracy through community supported literacy. This is a nonprofit, grassroots literacy movement that operates completely on volunteers and donations,” she added.

Aside from Judy’s Pantry, Leo said pantries in Brunswick, Yarmouth, South Portland, Buxton, Gorham and Portland are also participating in Book Fairy Pantry Project.

“Our goal is to be statewide, then nationwide and worldwide,” Leo wrote.

The first donation of more than 20 books were brought to Judy’s Pantry on Tuesday, Nov. 21 and the library is getting ready to bring in another cache this week.

“Especially in this town, (people) love to support their neighbors and are happy to donate books,” Davis said. “People are always looking to donate books they have that their kids may have outgrown all the time, but we really don’t have the space for that. This is a great way to get those books in the hands of people who can use them.”

Nancy Rallis, a regular volunteer at Judy’s Pantry, was quick to embrace the Book Fairy Pantry Project. The pantry is open the second and fourth Tuesday of the month from 3 to 5 p.m. now through early summer.

“Children’s literature was a central part of my first grade classroom,” Rallis, a retired Pond Cove teacher told the Sentry in an email. “I know how important it is to expose children to books at an early age. I know that not all families can afford books and not all families visit local libraries. This program is a quick way to get books into the hands of deserving children.”

Rallis said although the turnout was lower than it usually is that Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the initial book drop off was a success.

“I made sure that our visitors were aware of the display and helped some select appropriate titles,” Rallis said. “At closing time there were only 10 books left. Considering the fact that we had a small turnout that day, I think it was quite successful. I still have the image of a 4-year-old walking around the pantry holding a red book of stories close to her chest. She was beaming.”

Leo said families are typically surprised, yet pleased, they can pick up a book to bring home along with their food items.

“Food pantries can feed children’s bodies and minds,” Leo said.

Davis said the focus of the book collection is early literacy books, picture books and beginner chapter books. Helping kids develop strong early literacy skills is very important, Davis said.

“The number one indicator of school readiness is being read to daily. It is also such a bonding activity parents and caregivers can do with their children,” Davis said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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