(pictured above: Media Coordinator Myra Worrell presents a book to a Konnoak student.)
by: Kim Underwood
W-S/Forsyth County Schools
Fifth-grader Lizeth Gutierrez likes to read on her own and she likes to read to her first-grade sister Jessica.
“I read funny tales to my sister at night before she goes to bed,” Lizeth said.
Thanks to Cameron Payne and Beryl Mankins and their Children’s Book Legacy, Lizeth may soon have another book to choose from when it’s time to pick a book to read to her sister. On a recent morning – while Cameron was in school at Paisley IB Magnet School – Mankins, who is Cameron’s grandmother, showed up at Konnoak Elementary School with six suitcases. They were filled with 128 books that the Children’s Book Legacy was donating to Konnoak so that students could take them home and add them to their personal libraries.
In a classroom at Konnoak, Lizeth and other fifth-grade ambassadors greeted Mankins and helped her spread the books out on tables so that everyone could get a better look at the bounty. The students were delighted by what they saw.
“I think this is good,” said Demus Ramsey.
“I love to read,” said Honesty Gibson.
After his school day at Paisley was done one afternoon, Cameron talked about founding the Children’s Book Legacy in 2008 and its goal to get books into the hands of children.
“I just like to help my community,” he said. “Books help you succeed in life.”
Cameron was inspired to start the organization after hearing about a family who lost everything when their house burned. The organization has since donated more than 3,000 books to a number of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools, including North Hills, Easton and Diggs-Latham elementary schools and Paisley, as well as such other places in the community as Brenner Children’s Hospital and the City of Winston-Salem’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.
He would like to see the organization continue to grow. Cameron has received a number of awards. In 2011, when he was a student at Mineral Springs Elementary School, the Hasbro toy company gave him a Hasbro Community Action Hero Award, one of only six awarded throughout the country. At the awards ceremony, he met filmmaker Spike Lee. This year, Hasbro is sending 100 toys to the Book Legacy, and Cameron plans to distribute the toys with books during the holiday season.
Cameron serves as the organization’s director and Mankins as the executive director. She is also the organization’s main book shopper, checking out yard sales, thrift stores and other places that offer good prices on used books.
“I buy them wherever I see them,” Mankins said.
When people donate books to the organization, she is happy to receive fiction and nonfiction alike. When she is shopping, she keeps a particular eye out for books in one of the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) categories.
“My vision is educational books that will teach them,” she said.
That includes such fiction as the Magic Treehouse books, which teach history. She also keeps in mind that many of the students who receive the books are black or Hispanic so she looks for books with black and Hispanic characters.
“I have been told by the parents they want to see their own faces,” she said.
A book is one of the greatest gifts that a child can receive, said Denise McCoy, the parent involvement coordinator at Konnoak. Along with the gift of the books themselves, said Principal Shelia Burnette, she appreciates the connection between Konnoak and the wider community that the books represent.
The tentative plan is to give the books to students as gifts or perhaps incentives.
“This is a way to get books into their homes and into their hands,” said Media Coordinator Myra Worrell.
She thinks that having books of their own that they have chosen encourages children to read.
“They will take it home and read it, probably over and over again,” Worrell said. “I think this is a wonderful idea. It’s a wonderful thing to put a book in a child’s hand.”