Handing a book to a child living in the most impoverished conditions and introducing them to the joys of reading can be a transformative, life-changing experience.

A well-read child will eventually learn: the world is certainly bigger than their heads, but what’s inside their heads can be so much bigger than the world around them.

Next week, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Durham nonprofit Book Harvest will host its aptly-named “Dream Big Book Drive and Community Celebration” in the downtown district.

Book Harvest is located in the city’s Rockwood District. For over a decade, the nonprofit has given away books to children and families who need them to promote lifelong literacy and academic success.

Book Harvest was founded in 2011 by Ginger Young with what she describes on the nonprofit’s website as “a dusty, crowded garage filled with donated books” at her Chapel Hill home.

In early 2012, Book Harvest became a nonprofit and that modest opening chapter with donated books and “a handful of quirky dreamers” turned a page with office space in the Rockwood District on University Drive.  

By 2020, the nonprofit had hundreds of volunteers, dozens of distribution partners, and had received more than 1.3 million donated books from the community.

“Right now we are focused on Durham,” Benay Hicks, Book Harvest’s communications manager, told the INDY this week. “But for our second decade we’re looking to serve as many people as possible in Durham and throughout North Carolina.”

Young says that she started the nonprofit with the dream that every child in the community should grow up in the presence of books—and plenty of them. 

“I loved to read as a child, and I wanted all kids to have that joy,” says Young. “Children who grow up in the presence of books do better in school than children who don’t.

“Simply stated: books build brains.”

Book Harvest’s 11th annual book day of literature and fun will take place at Durham Central Park from 1-4 p.m. 

In the spirit of the MLK Day theme of service, community members are invited to donate new and gently used children’s books to Dream Big. All donated books will be provided to children in Durham and beyond through Book Harvest’s book access and literacy initiatives, according to a press release from the nonprofit. 

Celebration-goers can munch on free popcorn from Mad Popper, read and listen to poems written in real-time by the Poetry Fox, and hobnob with the Durham Bulls’ Wool E. Bull and other well-known mascots. The fledgling bibliophiles can also indulge their inner artist with crafts and activities courtesy of Scrap Exchange, take in a performance by the Bouncing Bulldogs jump roping team, and bite into warm donuts from Mr. A’s Beignets. All attendees will receive new string backpacks full of children’s books for free as well.

The event is fully outdoors; masks are required. 

The Dream Big organizers, mindful of pandemic safety protocols, are also offering a drive-through lane for families interested in making a contact-free contribution to the cause of promoting children’s literacy. Bull City bookworms can also drive through to receive a free bag of children’s books. 

According to the Book Harvest release, 70 book drive captains throughout the Triangle have signed up to run Dream Big book drives in their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, congregations, and civic groups, in order to honor Dr. King’s legacy of service. 

Learn more about the event here.

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Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to tmcdonald@indyweek.com.