For years, the Monday Club of San Luis Obispo has partnered with the SLO County Office of Education on Raising a Reader, a childhood literacy program that sends local students home with rotating book bags, which also include educational materials to help parents connect with their child over reading.
- Photo Courtesy Of Janice Crooks
- BOOKS GALORE The Monday Club received 1,000 book donations on May 10 as part of its new Equity and Access to Literacy program. These books will be delivered to local students via the Food Bank.
The Monday Club is a fixture in the program, fundraising for schools and sending volunteers to classrooms each year. But when COVID-19 hit, their work came to a halt.
"We were going into the classrooms and reading for kids—that all stopped with the pandemic," said Janice Crooks, chair of the Monday Club's Raising a Reader committee.
The Monday Club continued to raise money for the program over the course of the pandemic, but its members always wanted to do something more direct to promote reading.
"Most of us are retired teachers or reading specialists. I love kids and reading," Crooks said.
Recently, they figured out a way. Entering into a brand-new partnership with the SLO Food Bank, the Monday Club is now taking in book donations from the community and using the Food Bank to deliver them to kids.
Every summer, the Food Bank provides more than 2,000 underserved local children with individual breakfast bags. Each drawstring backpack comes with three weeks' worth of shelf-stable breakfast food—granola bars, oatmeal, cereal, shelf-stable milk, fruit cups, and more.
Now, their bags will include a few books, too.
"I really just got a phone call from [the Monday Club] randomly," said Tara Davis, the nutrition and children's programs manger for the Food Bank. "They were interested: Do you have a way to get these books to children you provide food for?"
Adding books to the breakfast bags would be relatively simple, Davis said. They just needed to be grouped together by language and age level, and added to the bag assembly line. Pretty soon after that phone call, the Monday Club's Equity and Access to Literacy program was born.
"It just started rolling," Crooks said. "It's just been great."
On May 10, the club held its first book drive for the program, which drew in 1,000 books. The club plans to hold future drives on the second and fourth Monday of each month through July—from 4 to 6 p.m. outside of its building at 1815 Monterey St. The club is requesting new and used books that don't have marked-up or torn pages and that are suitable for all youth age levels, and bilingual books are also welcome.
"As many books as we can get, we can give out to kids," Crooks said.
The Monday Club plans to make its first book drop to the Food Bank on May 21. Crooks said the collection thus far includes some real gems, and she added that she hopes other nonprofits will join in on the initiative with their own book drives. She said the Monday Club can serve as a hub for a countywide campaign.
"We don't mind being the funnel," she said.
Given the uncertain future of COVID-19, the Monday Club isn't sure how long this new program will remain practical. But regardless, Crooks said club volunteers are overjoyed to finally be getting books into children's hands again.
"This is more real. This is more satisfying," she said. "We're going to do it for as long as the need is there."
• Funeral services for fallen SLO Police Detective Luca Benedetti will take place at 10 a.m. on May 20 at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center, and will be followed by a first responder procession to a private graveside service in Paso Robles. Community members are encouraged to attend the funeral service and show their support; for more information and to RSVP, find the SLO Police Department's memorial page for Benedetti on Eventbrite. The public is also invited to visit a memorial site outside of SLO City Hall dedicated to Benedetti through May 21.
• The AAUW Atascadero recently awarded scholarships to 11 local students to help them pursue their educational and vocational dreams. Nearly $23,000 went to the students in this year's round of AAUW scholarships. Δ
Assistant Editor Peter Johnson wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to [email protected].