Homeport ‘Book Bank’ Program Garners National Recognition

Homeport, a Central Ohio leader in affordable housing access, has received a national librarians’ association award for a special program meant to help its student residents retain their learning skills and knowledge over school breaks.

The American Association of School Librarians has awarded a “Certificate of Commendation” to Homeport for its “Bright Ideas Book Bank” program.

The first-year program provided over 2,000 books to more than 400 school children during the 2013-2014 school year. The children in the Book Bank program are residents of 24 rental communities that Homeport developed for Central Ohio residents of low to moderate income.

“Our goal is to make sure that parents and their children have a safe, affordable home, and that they have the best opportunity to succeed long term,” said Homeport President/CEO Amy Klaben. “Providing books to children for holiday/summer break reading enables them to remain engaged in learning, to not regress in their ability to read and to retain knowledge. At Homeport, we believe that books help turn a house into a home where families can dream and shape their future.”

The Book Bank offers children in Homeport communities a selection of age appropriate, culturally and character diverse books based on data drawn from the Columbus Metropolitan Library and other educational and reading sources. For example, children 12 to 14 years old had 11 choices including “Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Hispanic in the United States,” “Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography,” and “The Skin I Am In,” a Coretta Scott King Award winner.

Homeport reached out to community businesses and other individuals associated with the non-profit to meet the student requests.  Approximately 500 books were donated by the Junior Library Guild, based in Plain City. Another 250 books were donated from customers and employees of Starbucks, where flyers of needed books were attached to drive-through pastry orders. Alliance Data (Easton) retail services employees donated 250 books and St. Pius Church of Reynoldsburg contributed 150 as part of a student driven initiative.

Deliveries were made prior to the winter break in 2013 and again in May 2014 prior to summer break.

Early this summer the Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA) recognized Homeport for the initiative. Homeport was then nominated for the national award.

“We wanted to share with others how blessed Ohio is to have an organization such as Homeport,” said OELMA Vice President Angela Wojtecki. “It is evident that Homeport is aiming to narrow the gap of children who have access to books with those that have little to no access to books. Research studies suggest the more literacy exposure children have starting at birth, the more lifelong success they will achieve. As school librarians, we fully support and are encouraged and excited to partner with organizations such as Homeport.”

Homeport learned on Sept. 4 that it was one of six organizations across the country to receive the national award. http://www.ala.org/aasl/about/affils/commend-current.

Book Bank is only the latest effort by Homeport to promote literacy including Columbus Metropolitan Library bookmobile visits to Homeport communities, and having children sign up for library cards. It has also partnered with the literature based “Kids of Character” program run locally by Capital University. Capital’s “America Reads” program will also soon bring tutors to three Homeport after-school sites.

Individuals or organizations interested in learning more about or supporting the Bright Ideas Book Bank are encouraged to contact Morgen Wade, Homeport’s Manager of Volunteer Engagement, at morgen.wade@homeportohio.org