Do you remember some of your favorite books you read as a child? That series of books that you couldn’t wait to read? Or what about the books you loved to read to your own children? For many of us, the thought of these books brings back memories of happiness and an escape to another world with our book friends. And while most of us didn’t grow up wealthy, there was always enough money for a new book and access to books in our homes. Sadly, many families in the United States have no children’s books at home. In fact, many of those children are right here in Chesapeake.
Some 42 percent of American children — more than 31 million — grow up in families that lack the income to cover basic needs like rent, child care, food and transportation. In bookstores, most hardcover children’s books sell for $15 to $20, with paperbacks typically running from $5 to $10. Although lower cost titles are available, the pricing of books — especially the most popular and attractive children’s books, as well as baby board books — puts regular book buying out of reach for low-income families.
This situation might be acceptable if books were luxuries, like silk scarves. But educators contend that access to books should be seen as a necessity, alongside access to food, shelter and health care. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that making books more accessible to children — through libraries, reading programs and home libraries — can produce marked improvements in their reading behavior.
It’s often assumed that families without books lack interest in reading. But that is not necessarily the case. “When poor people, even those at low literacy levels, have a little extra money, they will buy inexpensive books,” explains Susan B. Neuman, a professor at the University of Michigan, who specializes in early literacy development and co-authored the study in Philadelphia. “But some families have so little disposable income, they can’t afford any books.” This is bad news for their kids. Around the world, one thing that has been shown to be a consistently powerful predictor of academic achievement is a home library. 
There are many factors that influence children’s reading and no one is claiming that books alone will solve the problem. However, some noted educators, such as Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, have argued that “simply providing access is the first and most important step in encouraging literacy development.”
Many of our own children here in Chesapeake have never had a book of their own. Imagine the joy of taking home a book that belongs to you!
We want to provide a “Book Blitz” to our Title 1 Elementary Schools in Chesapeake. This is like a book fair, but no money is required. Each child at the school will be able to pick out two gently used books of there very own. We plan on starting this in Camelot Elementary and we don’t plan to stop until we’ve covered the five Title 1 elementary schools.
Where will we get the books? From generous folks like you, of course! Through book drives from groups and individual donations, we expect to have all the books we’ll need to book blitz our community. Many thrift stores in our area have great children’s books for as little as 50 cents per book. In fact, we’ve been able to buy an entire bag of 50 books, all current and of great quality, for just $5.00! Our frugal staff can really stretch a buck!