Ted Lindenberg said he tries not to throw statistics around, but there are a couple he can’t help but share: Middle-income neighborhoods have roughly 13 books per child. Lower-income neighborhoods have roughly 300 children per book.
“We ask these boys and girls to read, yet they don’t have books to read,” Lindenberg said.
We ask these boys and girls to read, yet they don’t have books to read.
- Ted Lindenberg
Lindenberg is hoping to reverse that trend in Manatee and Sarasota counties. His organization, Books for Kids through the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch, gives books to children in seven schools between the two counties. On Thursday, Books for Kids held a luncheon at the Lakewood Ranch Country Club to thank supporters and celebrate an exponential increase in the number of children receiving books.
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The organization officially started in 2014 with three volunteers handing out 60 books per month. Today, 55 volunteers distribute roughly 1,200 books per month.
Lindenberg said that at the end of this year, the organization will have distributed roughly 20,000 books. The volunteers drop into the same classroom each month, read a book to the class and have a question-and-answer session before handing each child a book they get to keep.
The volunteers were universal in their assessment — volunteering made them feel like rock stars.
“There’s no place else where I walk into a room and get a standing ovation,” said volunteer Patricia Collins. “I feel like I’m Santa Claus and Mary Poppins. What we get to do is so gratifying.”
There’s no place else where I walk into a room and get a standing ovation. I feel like I’m Santa Claus and Mary Poppins.
- Volunteer Patricia Collins
Volunteer Sajjad Hashmi was succinct in his description of being a volunteer:
“This is one of the most pleasant things I have done in my life,” he said.
At Thursday’s luncheon, thank-you letters from book recipients decorated the tables.
“I like this book and it is funny to me. I like this book because vampires are my favorite monster ...” one letter from a student read. “Thank you!”
Steve Royce, former principal of Tara Elementary School and current Gocio Elementary School principal in Sarasota County, said the students receiving books from Books for Kids are among those that likely would never have a book of their own.
“(Parents) are wondering, ‘Am I going to pay my light bill, my water bill, or am I going to buy a book?’” Royce said. “Their answer is the same as our answer would be.”
School District of Manatee County Superintendent Diana Greene attended the luncheon, and she encouraged those in the room to get involved with Books for Kids, saying Lindenberg’s enthusiasm for literacy was infectious.
“For these students, you are consistency for them,” Greene said. “Many of these students are in environments that are chaotic and inconsistent. You impact them with the simple joy of reading.”