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A Hummel Report Investigation

A Book Of Their Own

Every year tens of thousands of children’s books make their way into the homes of students whose families might not be able to afford starting a home library of their own. For more than a decade Books Are Wings has provided an outlet for families looking for a way to donate their own children’s books and help other students at the same time. This month Jim Hummel takes a look at what it take to get from start to finish.

Click here to learn more about Books Are Wings.


The sea of children’s books stretches across lunch tables lined up at the cafeteria of an elementary school in Central Falls. Long before the students will arrive for a special morning assembly, volunteers are setting up: ready to hand out books, book marks and apples to hundreds of 1st through 4th graders at the Ella Risk Elementary School.
By 8:45 the 2nd-graders being arriving, and a buzz spread through the cafeteria.
The goal by the end of the day: to encourage students to read and to help them start - or build on - a home library of their own.
White: ``A lot of these schools don’t have book fairs because children don’t come with money to buy books and so we are that for them.’’
Jocelynn White is director of the non-profit organization called Books Are Wings, a conduit for new and `gently used’ book donations - in many cases from families whose children are grown but don’t want to throw away what was such an important part of their childhood.
The organization officially began 13 years ago after one of its founders, Elizabeth Denigan, was trying to figure what to do with books she had cleaned from her own daughter’s shelves. That has morphed into a group that now takes in more than a 1,000 books a week at its offices in Pawtucket, organizes them and sends them right back out into the community.
White: ``Our dream someday is a video of showing what it takes for someone to hand us a book and then watch where it goes; it comes in here, it gets put in a box, it gets a sticker on it, it goes back in another box, it goes on the hand truck, down into a van, into the school and then into the hand of a child and that’s the picture we people to understand, how much it takes to get this book, that you gave to the next person.’’
The assembly we saw is repeated dozens of times every year at schools in Central Falls, Providence and Pawtucket,  areas Books are Wings focuses on where some families might not have enough money to buy their ownbooks.
White: ``We say it’s food or books, some of the children and parents we work with they need the essentials of food on the table and heat in their homes, and so when they only have pennies to spend, the book, unfortunately is what falls down; and so we’re there to kind of help support that piece of them.’’
On this morning Principal Mike Templeton introduces White, whose theme will be making healthy choices. She reads a book called Henry Gets Moving, about a hamster who has poor eating and exercise habits, but feels much better after he makes some simple changes in his life. 
The kids get a surprise visit from Henry himself, then do a project decorating bookmarks, before receiving a new copy of the Henry book and an apple - followed by a trip to the main table to choose two books of their own to take home.

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