One of Colleen Perry’s favorite things to see at CommuniCare Health Centers in Davis is families in the waiting room, children sitting on their parents’ laps, reading books together.
Perry, director of clinic operations at the center, said the staff keeps a small cart full of children’s books in the waiting room for just that purpose. But they also encourage the children who visit the clinic to take a book home with them.
“It’s just so important for them to be reading,” Perry said.
Of course, books going out the door on the regular basis requires books coming in, too.
Enter Sawyer Norton.
The Emerson Junior High School ninth-grader is a book lover herself, so when she started thinking about a service project for her Girl Scout Silver Award, literacy came to mind. And kids.
“I was really interested in a project that benefited kids,” Sawyer said.
Researching the importance of early reading, Sawyer learned just how important it is for young children to actually hold books in their hands, turn the pages and point at the pictures. It inspired her to find a way to get more books into the hands of children.
She already knew there were many opportunities for collecting second-hand books in Davis — from garage sales to thrift stores and even the library, which sometimes receives more children’s book donations than it can use.
A family friend who works at CommuniCare told Sawyer about the need for books in the waiting room there, from infant board books up to about the third-grade level, and in different languages as well.
So Sawyer set to work collecting books eight months ago. Armed with a $100 grant from the Davis Girl Scouts Service Unit, she began hitting garage sales, and more often than not, when people found out why she was shopping for children’s books, they urged her to take the books for free.
The Stephens Branch Library offered her books from their collection and more were found at the SPCA Thrift Store and All Things Right & Relevant. In all, Sawyer collected some 600 books.
Meanwhile, CommuniCare needed storage space for all the books — three bookcases, to be specific, one each for the Davis clinic, the Woodland clinic and the West Sacramento clinic.
Sawyer found the perfect set of three at a garage sale.
Members of her troop — Troop 1469 — were very helpful in sorting and labeling the books, she said, including adding stickers that encourage the reader to take the book home, and when finished with it, pass it along to someone else.
Last month Sawyer delivered everything. With the assistance of her mom, Kristen Weeks Norton, and cousin, Johnny Weeks, a student at UC Davis, she made the first delivery to the Davis clinic. In addition to the books and bookcase, she delivered a donation box, for people to drop off more children’s books in the future. She plans to spread the word so donations will continue coming in.
In the end, she said, her project taught her a lot about literacy and even more about the community. And because of her, more books will be in little hands in Davis.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy