The Brooklyn branch of the NAACP demonstrated a commitment to the development of lifelong readers by holding their first annual New Year Book Giveaway for children in grades K-3 at the Macon Library in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Saturday, Jan. 25. This community affair emphasized why reading should not just be an option, but a basic necessity for lifelong learning and survival. Children must be taught to value, love and cherish books and reading.
Derek G. Nichols, NAACP’s Educational Committee chair and CEO of the Founder Inner City Foundation of NY, said, “Discussions on how the NAACP could expand its service in the field of literacy [have been] held, and since the Macon Street library already has a literacy program, it was not only wise to use this branch for a book giveaway, but also as a pivotal focus for such a timely project.”
Children and parents from the community gathered at the library from 1:30-3 p.m. to receive free books. The NAACP’s theme of “Reaching Educational Achievement by Completing High School” should be reinforced at home, the organizers stated. Many children do not have Internet access at home, and these books were either an enhancement to their sparse home collection or their only books in general. This, the organizers pointed out, substantiates why books are needed and the fact that there is no substitute for reading.
There is something indescribable about a child being able to curl up with a book. The mere act of holding the book and turning the pages strengthens hand-eye coordination and aids the development of motor skills. There are numerous fundamental benefits that books offer that should not be sacrificed for the sake of technology.
Emphasizing this point, L. Joy Williams, the president of the NAACP Brooklyn branch, spoke about how as a child, she “escaped to books” and was appreciative of the support she received from Scholastic, Greenlight Bookstore, Ps and Qs, and the Dionne Mack-Harvin Center. City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr. and a representative from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ office, both of whom attended, heard new author Qimmah Saafir and illustrator Pope Phoenix read their book “Charlie and his Imaginary Friend.”
The Bed-Stuy community is the largest Black community in New York City, and 33 percent of the residents are under 18 years old. There are approximately 22 public elementary schools, but charter schools seem to outnumber the public schools. There is also a variety of private schools.
With such a vast amount of educational institutions, one would expect the younger part of the population to consist of proficient readers, but citywide test scores highlight a disconnect. This makes it clear that education should not be the sole responsibility of schools. It’s a moral, human and civil right, so institutions such as the NAACP, which has over 103 years experience of fighting inequality, are engaging in the re-education of youths. Books are priceless resources. Reading allows children to travel the world and visit places they might never physically see.
Macon Library was established in 1907 and has been frequented by former Bed-Stuy residents such as the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm and singer/actress Lena Horne. The late author John Steptoe, who published his first book at the age of 16, said that, for him, “Macon was home.” Children and parents left carrying bags of books for their reading enjoyment. Macon Library is still like home for many.