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Editorial: Help kids read, help your community

“If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger ...”
– Author Michael Ende, "The Neverending Story"

Anyone who has ever devoured a good book knows what it feels like to take flight in the imagination of a particularly skilled author. These journeys should begin at an early age. Youngsters in homes without books may never get that chance, a particular problem for underprivileged children exposed to millions fewer words than their well-off counterparts. That's a deficit that carries into adulthood.

The Books for Kids campaign, which runs until April 30, could change their story.

Established in 1995 by The Buffalo News, SUNY Buffalo State and Project Flight co-founders Geraldine Bard and Elizabeth Cappella, more than 2.8 million books have been distributed in Western New York.

Anyone fortunate to have grown up in households with loads and loads of books can understand the laughter and even screams of several preschoolers at the kickoff of the Books for Kids drive, on a recent day inside the Salvation Army’s Mitchell Owen Community Center. These children were delighted to have books with actual pages in their hands – books, not video games. Some books came with a bit of a modern twist, as young readers donned 3-D cardboard glasses that offered another view of the content’s pictures.

Encouraging more kids to read is easy. Just drop your donations off at the 37 public libraries in Buffalo and Erie County, The Buffalo News at Washington and Scott streets, Wegmans in Erie and Niagara counties, Dipson Theaters, Western New York Mattress Firm locations, Raymour & Flanigan locations and Tom’s Restaurant, 3221 Sheridan Drive, Amherst.

Cash donations are welcome. Make checks payable to: Books for Kids/Project Flight, 7954 Transit Road, Suite 205, Williamsville, NY, 14221.

The point is to start children reading at an early age and building their vocabularies. The educational process is not without adventure, as Ende wrote:

“… If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures, whom you have loved and admired, for whom you have hoped and feared, and without whose company life seems empty and meaningless ...

If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won’t understand what Bastian did next.”

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