Thousands of kids to get books from Channel 9 and Promising Pages book drive

CHARLOTTE — There’s a desperate need to get students back on track in the classroom. Data shows the pandemic played a significant roll on students’ math and reading scores.

Channel 9 is committed to putting more books in the hands of children and teens across the Carolinas. Starting Wednesday, we’re teaming up with the Promising Pages Book Fair to collect fairly gently used books for the 9 Books for Kids drive. The goal is to get books to 11,500 elementary school students in the Charlotte area.

>> You can drop off donations at any local Arby’s or Ashley Furniture location. To find a site near you, click here. The drive will last until April 30.

Having access to books at home is a luxury for many students across the Charlotte area, so reading during the summer can be a far-fetched idea.

“We are a regional book bank, so any community organization or teacher or school can come get books for free,” said Kelly Cates, the deputy director for Promising Pages.

Reading may be fundamental, but often times, it’s far from the fingertips of our community’s youngest minds.

“An estimated 60,000 children in the Charlotte area that don’t have access to books. They’re living in a book desert, so they have 10 or less books in their homes,” Cates said.

Data from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools shows among economically disadvantaged third grade students, 78% were not reading on grade level this school year. That’s a more than 20% increase from the previous school year.

“If you’re not reading on grade level by third grade, you’re four times more likely to drop out of high school,” Cates said.

It’s why Promising Pages is bursting at the seams with books right now as the prepare for the giveaway.

“We’re trying desperately to get as many books into children’s homes as possible,” Cates said.

They’re collecting more than 60,000 books, cleaning them by hand, and will distribute them ahead of summer break. They’ll do it through book fairs at 23 CMS Title I elementary schools. Each student will get at least five books.

“We have a higher number of children who are not proficient, and so we are constantly working to help them,” said Jennifer Harrison, who is coordinating the fair at Bruns Avenue Elementary School.

She said she sees firsthand the impact of students not being strong readers.

“One year of learning loss or being behind can translate to two years the following if we don’t get them caught up,” she said.

And keeping those skills fresh through the summer can be crucial to future success.

“It impacts their social, emotional -- they’re not confident. If you’re not confident you don’t practice, if you practice you can’t gain those skills and become proficient,” Harrison explained.

Organizers are asking the community to donate diverse books that will really grab a kid’s attention.

>> To learn more, visit 9booksforkids.com.

(WATCH BELOW: 9 Books for Kids 2022 - Building A Better Vocabulary)

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.