Michelle Clements, lead Title I Reading teacher at Beulah Elementary, was all smiles as she watched pre-K through third-grade students selecting a brand-new book to call their own at the first Book and Breakfast for the new school year. The free books were made possible by a $4,200 grant received by First Book – Greater Richmond, an all-volunteer local Advisory Board formed in November 2005 to serve children in the greater Richmond metropolitan area.
Two hundred seventy-five invitations answered the R.S.V.P. event – “The largest ever,” says Mary Jean Hunt, principal at Beulah. “It gets bigger every year. We do things at night, but this [Book and Breakfast event] by far gets the most parents out.” Along with it being a special event for the students, Clements was honored with a certificate presented to her by volunteers from the First Book – Greater Richmond. Trish Reed, recipient group chairman for First Book and Cindy Fentriss, First Book – Greater Richmond co-chairman, presented Clements a plaque for First Book Certificate of Excellence Book Grant Award. Fentriss followed the presentation with a reading aloud to the children, one of her favorite children’s books, Too Loud Lily.
Clements has been teaching for 33 years and has been the lead Title I teacher at Beulah since 1999. This is the largest grant she has ever won. “I am so excited,” she says. “Our goal is to put a book in every child’s hand that is theirs to keep. With the book grant, we are able to do that. This is one way that we are able to promote literacy here at Beulah.” The Book and Breakfast is held six times a year and each time, the children will receive a free book.
First Book was the inspiration of Kyle Zimmer, a corporate lawyer by day who tutored children at an inner-city soup kitchen by night. She discovered that the children she tutored had no books to read. That year, Zimmer left her day job, and she and two friends founded First Book to provide new books and resources to the children who needed them the most. They delivered 12,000 books to local communities in the Washington, D.C. area the first year.
Nearly 20 years later, First Book has delivered more than 65 million books to programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada.
First Book – Greater Richmond’s all-volunteer Board includes individuals from a wide cross-section of the community. Their primary goal is to work with existing literacy programs in the Richmond metropolitan area to distribute books to children who, for economic reasons, have little or no access to books. They focus on children at the preschool, elementary school, and middle school levels and provide them with brand-new, high-quality books. Funding for the local First Book comes from many community partners including SunTrust, University of Richmond, and United Way contributions. One of their more successful fundraisers is their golf tournament; which will be held at the Brandermill Country Club this year. This is Beulah’s second year as a grant recipient from First Books – Greater Richmond.