Hundreds of books reach local children

By Megan Loiselle

Children in Champaign County might receive new books in time for the holidays – all because of efforts of University students to serve the community and improve literacy.

Several student organizations on campus are collecting books for women and children associated with organizations such as the Crisis Nursery, local elementary schools, The Reading Group and the Center for Women in Transition.

“We decided to focus on local organizations,” said Julie LeCleir, junior in LAS, who is in charge of the book drive.

LeCleir said the book drive began when the students in the Campus Honors Program expressed an interest in doing an intra-organizational project. LeCleir then met with different University student organizations and decided to do a book drive.

About 15 to 20 people each from Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Phi Omega, Campus Honors Program, LAS Leaders, Mortar Board, Starcourse and Student Education Association are participating in the drive.

On Sunday night, the organizations spent more than seven hours collecting books they’d asked Champaign and Urbana residents to leave on their front porches for the drive.

The drive will continue until Thursday, and the new and gently-used books can still be dropped off in locations throughout the community, including the Wal-Marts in Champaign and Savoy, Osco on Neil Street in Champaign, Urbana Free Library, Schnucks in Champaign and Urbana, Walgreens on Green Street and the Illini Union.

“We will start sorting the books (Monday night) and move them out,” LeCleir said Monday afternoon. “My prediction is that we’ll have well over 500 books.”

LeCleir said the schools are receiving the books because they are classified as Title I schools, meaning they have students who have more academic challenges.

“The idea was that the children would have a book to bring home for the holidays,” LeCleir said.

Joanna Tylka, co-chair for Mortar Board, said the organization became involved through their adviser Elizabeth Rockman. Mortar Board is a national college senior honor society.

“We picked organizations that we were aware of and thought could use books,” Tylka said, adding that they called the organizations to see if they had a need for the books. “There are a lot of people in the community who need books.”

Tylka said the book drive is a small contribution the organizations can make in order to further literacy among women and children.

Ginny Dewar, executive director of Crisis Nursery, said she was not aware of the book drive but was appreciative of the student organizations.

Crisis Nursery, which is affiliated with United Way, is a place where parents who are in a crisis can take their children under the age of five when they have no other option.

“It’s an extended family kind of thing,” Dewar said.

Dewar said it is wonderful that the students are familiar with the Crisis Nursery.

“We appreciate everything they do for us,” Dewar said. “We can use books for children and books that focus on cultural diversity. We believe in literacy for children.”