Kids' Book Bank

Dylan Hershey, 12, an incoming seventh-grader at Solon Middle School, brings book donations to the Kids’ Book Bank bin with his brother Caleb, 7, an incoming second-grader at Lewis Elementary School. Joining them, from left are Tamara Strom, director of communication services for Solon Schools; Solon Senior Center volunteer and retired Solon teacher Judy Hawley; and Solon Senior Center director Jill Frankel.

An ongoing opportunity to donate gently used children’s books to needy Cleveland-area youth now is available to Solon residents.

Through a partnership of Solon City Schools and the Solon Senior Center with the Kids’ Book Bank in Cleveland, residents can deposit the children’s books they no longer need in bins located outside of Lewis Elementary School and Solon Middle School. Volunteers from the Solon Senior Center will regularly collect the books, box them and deliver them to the Kids’ Book Bank.

Founded in late 2015 as an outgrowth of the Little Free Library movement in Cleveland, the Kids’ Book Bank provides free books to children in need. In its first three and a half years, the Kids’ Book Bank has distributed more than 2 million high-quality children’s books to more than 95,000 children and families in Greater Cleveland.

“We’ve got bins in many locations,” said Judy Payne, co-founder and executive director of the Kids’ Book Bank. “What is particularly interesting in Solon is the model of seniors working with the school district, working with us. That makes it unique and I think special. I love that the seniors are going to take the books back to the book bank. All of the other locations involved are solely the schools.”

Solon’s partnership is another example, she added, of “how things magically come together” to serve children. “It’s about community and relationships, from collecting books, to kids being offered books from somebody they know and a child able to pick the book that speaks to them. The books are mainly intended to make sure the kids have something to read when they’re home.”

In its effort to foster literacy and a love of reading, Kids’ Book Bank works through more than 1,000 partner agencies that deliver the books directly to the children they serve. These include Little Free Libraries’ agencies that teach parents and caregivers to read with their children, as well as schools, childcare centers and after-school programs. Donated books go to children in school districts with a minimum of 65 percent eligible for the free or reduced lunch program.

Kids’ Book Bank seeks donations ranging from board books to young adult literature. “Our greatest need is board books through early reader and books reflecting diversity,” Ms. Payne said.

“We’re very thankful and excited about our partnership with the Solon Senior Center,” said Tamara Strom, director of communication services for the Solon City School District. “We already have collections throughout the school year for the Kids’ Book Bank. They’ll continue, and we’ll step that up. These will include themed collections such as nonfiction week or poetry books. It will give people a chance to look through their bookshelves in a different way and participate throughout the year. We’ll keep a continual flow going.”The bins will serve as “a touch point” for students to realize other children do not have the resources they have.

The two bins at Solon Schools are easy to find, Ms. Strom said. They are located next to paper recycling bins at the west side of the parking lot at Lewis Elementary School, 32345 Cannon Road, and east side of the parking lot at the middle school, 6835 SOM Center Road. “Once you pull in, you can’t miss them.”

Senior Center Director Jill Frankel said she heard about the Kids Book Bank’s interest in having book collections from Solon residents Suzanne and Egon Singerman, who had volunteered at the book bank’s Perkins Avenue location.

“They thought it would be a perfect fit, knowing the Kids’ Book Bank’s needs and Judy’s quest to come out to Solon,” Ms. Frankel said. “Once Judy and I connected, I understood that this was important. I felt that it was a project our older adults would be interested in. We have many members looking for volunteer experience in our community.”

“We have a lot of retired teachers who are interested in the project,” Ms. Frankel added. “It’s great to work with the schools as often as we can.”

Senior Center volunteers will be picking up the books from the bins and taking them down to the book bank, where they will assist in sorting and preparing books for distribution, Ms. Frankel said. They will also bring back books for needy families served by the Solon Mobile Pantry, a monthly food distribution at the Church of the Resurrection. The pantry, supported by the Rotary Club of Solon, is a collaborative effort with the Cleveland Food Bank and local civic and faith-based organizations.

Ms. Frankel said volunteers are tentatively planning a weekly pickup at the bins and a monthly trip to the book bank.“We’re hoping for a surge,” she said, with the beginning of the school year. With school starting Aug. 21, it’s the perfect time to clear the shelves for new books in the year ahead.

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