Children who grow up in poorer homes hear millions of fewer words than those in middle- and upper-class families. That’s right, millions.
That deficit, which affects learning and can have lifelong implications, can be evident even by the time a child is 3 years old.
But put books in a child’s life and they have hope, said SUNY Buffalo State professor Betty Cappella, at Friday’s kickoff of the Books for Kids campaign.
“This program hopes to stem that gap by providing children with books that will allow them to dream, to think, to be tolerant, to think of peace, to not fight, to love their neighbors, to do all the things that are important that we know they should be doing,” Cappella said.
“But without the books to help,” she said, “their particular futures are dire.”
With Reada Book, the campaign’s owl mascot, perched nearby, campaign representatives launched the drive Friday morning inside the Mitchell Owen Community Center at the Salvation Army on Main Street.
Now in its 22nd year, the campaign has given out more than 2.4 million books. Last year, 74,414 books were distributed.
The campaign is sponsored by The Buffalo News, Project FLIGHT, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Wegmans, WGRZ-TV, SUNY Buffalo State and Monkey See, Monkey Do Children’s Bookstore.
“It’s the community rallying around doing a great thing for kids,” said Michael K. Connelly, editor of The Buffalo News.
This year’s goal is to collect 50,000 new books during the month of March.
In addition to the books, the campaign also aims to raise $15,000 in cash donations. That money will be used to purchase bilingual, Braille and multicultural books, as well as books for children with learning or physical challenges.
Books for Kids, which distributes books through area nonprofits, started in 1995 when The News and Project FLIGHT started collaborating. Project FLIGHT, founded by Cappella and Geraldine Bard, also a Buffalo State professor, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting literacy.
Collection sites include all Wegmans stores in Erie and Niagara counties; all Buffalo and Erie County public libraries; all Dipson Movie Theatres in Erie County; Monkey See, Monkey Do Children’s Bookstore, 9060 Main St., Clarence; all Mattress Firm and Raymour & Flanigan locations in Erie County; and at The Buffalo News, Washington and Scott streets, Buffalo.
Cash donations also can be made via PayPal at buffalonews.com/booksforkids. Checks made payable to Books for Kids or Project FLIGHT may be mailed to Books for Kids, c/o The Buffalo News, 1 News Plaza, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240.