Low-income children and youth in Gaston County to get free books

Walls around the gymnasium at Hawks Nest Intermediate School in Gastonia are lined with shoulder-high stacks of books this week.

Two 18-wheelers unloaded 40,000 books that will be given away free to low-income children and teenagers.

The project is a first-time partnership between the Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services and First Book, a national nonprofit that provides high-quality, free and low-cost books for programs and schools that serve children in need.

The free book distribution begins Monday. Gaston organizations that serve young children and teenagers up to 18 years old where 70 percent or more are from low-income families are eligible to participate.

Brittain Kenney with the department of health and human services said the books are being sorted by age level. Organizations will pick up the books and give low-income children 20 volumes each.

For many children, books are an unaffordable luxury.

“The idea is to give books to kids who might not be able to get them otherwise,” said Kenney. “It’s something they can take home and say is theirs.”

The reading matter is heavy on fiction and includes everything from board books for babies to action titles for older teens.

“The focus is on what kids want to read rather than what they have to read in school,” Kenney said.

In a release, health and human services director Chris Dobbins said “research shows literacy is critical for youngsters of all ages – from infants through teens in high school – to develop lifelong health. Adults should read to younger children and every child should own books.”