Mission Moments

With rare exception, a child should never be at the Probate and Family Court. Yet, they are there every day, often for many hours, waiting for their parents to finish court business. These days are stressful and emotional for children because their family is generally embroiled in conflict.

The Book It program offers these children a great benefit by letting them choose books that interest them and that they can read to themselves, each other, and even sometimes to their parents. These donated books provide solace and a distraction from the chaos that surrounds these kids. And, when they realize they can take the book home with them, their eyes light up. It may seem like a small thing to us, but as one child said recently, “This is kind of like Christmas.”

These are the words of Jocelyn Axelson, Assistant Judicial Case Manager with Hampden County Probate and Family Court in Springfield. Jocelyn works with families from all over the cultural and socio-economic spectrums every day, but she knows it’s the children from urban families who view getting one book as equivalent to Christmas.

Did you know that nationally only one of every 300 urban children has even one book to call their own? Or flop the stats like this: 299 out of 300 urban children have zero books of their own.

Square One has been hard at work to fix that so kids in Springfield can start a personal library of their own books and begin building the lifelong advantage that comes from strong literacy skills. Book It shelves are located in 19 places including community health centers, the women’s prison, the courts, nonprofit agencies and more. Attention-getting signage invites children to take one book at a time to own, enabling them to build a personal library at home. Books in a variety of languages are stocked to meet the needs of children who live in and around each bookshelf location.

Square One’s Book It program was launched with funding provided by The Davis Foundation. Books are donated by a variety of sources, including businesses, schools, churches and community organizations. Book It also has ongoing relationships with Springfield Library branches in Sixteen Acres and East Forest Park, the West Springfield Library, Storrs Library, the Wilbraham library and Link to Libraries.

Every educator in a Square One center and every one of our family childcare providers has received literacy training in support of the Book It initiative to improve early literacy training. Book It has taken literacy training a step further to involve at-risk teens through Square One’s involvement with the Healthy Families program and Narcotics Anonymous as well as homeless shelters and transitional housing locations. Additional literacy training for at-risk teens is in the works through the Springfield YWCA.

In the past 18 months alone, children have taken more than 12,000 books home from Book It shelves. Having books to read at home helps young children to build early literacy skills that are absolutely essential to meet the challenges of school and life.

Think for a moment about the tragedy of a child with no books – not even one. Think about that sobering statistic: 299 of 300 urban children nationally have no books of their own – not even one. Now think about the books you may have to donate. Think about leading a Book It drive through a group of which you’re a member. Think about getting your friends, neighbors and colleagues involved. No matter how the books get collected, just call Square One and we’ll come get them.

With the generosity of many, Book It is helping thousands of children to enjoy, one book at a time, a life long love of reading.

To contribute to Square One’s Book It! program, please contact Cara Cole at 413-858-3108.