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Books for Kids kicks off annual campaign

You’ll probably be seeing a lot of Reada Book in the coming weeks.

She’s the larger-than-life owl mascot, sporting a pink bow in her head feathers, who was introduced at Friday’s kickoff of the annual Books for Kids campaign, which runs throughout March.

The 21st edition of the campaign was launched at the Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, a beneficiary of the community drive to distribute books to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to possess one of their own. It began in 1995 as a collaboration between The Buffalo News and Project FLIGHT, a nonprofit organization devoted to literacy, which was founded by SUNY Buffalo State professors Elizabeth Cappella and Geraldine Bard.

“The impact of Project FLIGHT has been immeasurable,” said Joseph Cozzo, president and chief executive officer of the center, which has a “Language to Literacy” curriculum for low or non-readers. “Our whole commitment is to help young children learn to read.”

More than 82,000 books were distributed in 2014. The campaign also seeks to raise $20,000 in cash donations to buy books for children with special needs.

Friday, a dozen or so youngsters who attend programs at the center eagerly accepted suitably pint-sized books to take home and exchanged hugs with Reada Book.

Since the Books for Kids initiative began, more than 2.3 million books have been distributed to children through nonprofit organizations. “It is a remarkable, remarkable number,” said Mike Connelly, editor of The Buffalo News.

Campaign sponsorship has expanded to WGRZ-TV, Wegmans, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Barnes & Noble and the Junior League of Buffalo.

This year, the page is turning for the initiative’s leadership, from Project FLIGHT to Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.

“We are so pleased to continue to be a major partner,” Cappella said. “From the bottom of our hearts, Dr. Bard and I thank these groups … for allowing us to give this gift of literacy to children.”

“I know that you will do an outstanding job,” Cappella said to Mary Jean Jakubowski, library director for Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.

Jakubowski spoke with The Buffalo News afterward.

“We are very proud that we were selected to be the lead agency,” Jakubowski said. “We want to continue this wonderful legacy.

“Once a child gets a book in their hands, they want to have more and more,” she said. “It opens their world to imagination, to education.”

“Once you get the reading bug, I don’t think it ever goes away,” Jakubowski said.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com