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Turner Initiative Puts 8000 Books Into Young Readers’ Hands for Summer



TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner’s Fourth Annual Community Book Drive and Book Fair, held today at Trenton’s Hedgepeth Williams Middle School and P.J. Hill Elementary School, put more than 8,000 books into the eager hands of 1,542 schoolchildren.  This year’s event allows the children to select three books each for summer reading that will help them retain the literacy skills they acquired during the school year.

“In recent years, four Trenton libraries have closed, leaving only one in operation, and limiting our children’s access to age appropriate, summertime reading material,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer).  “By supporting their literacy with such a festive, exciting event, we increase their enthusiasm for learning and reading, and prevent the “summer slide” that leaves them less prepared to start the upcoming school year sharp and strong.

Growing from a more modest endeavor which was held the first two years in Trenton Housing Authority community space after summer vacations had already begun, the Book Drive and Book Fair now engages children in their own school space, transformed into the undersea wonderland of this year’s “Dive into Reading” theme. The event has expanded to attract the contributions and volunteerism of many individuals and organizations including:

Book Trader of Hamilton
Classics Books & Gifts of Trenton
Yardville Heights Elementary
Pennington Presbyterian Church
St. Paul Parish of Princeton
Ujima Ministries
Hope Presbyterian Church
St. David the King Catholic Church
Church of the Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd
The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Community Engaged Learning Coordinator
Delta Tau Delta (TCNJ Chapter)
Trenton Free Public Library
The Learning Resource Center
Literacy Leader for Hedgepeth Williams Middle School
Literacy Leader for P.J. Hill Elementary School
Division of Travel and Tourism
Mercer County Freeholder Carabelli

“The overwhelmingly positive response we receive from the community truly attests to the value we place on literacy,” said Senator Turner who cited The National Commission on Reading’s report that “the single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.”  “By allowing these students to take home whichever books they are drawn to, they will be more likely to read and enjoy them over the summer months,” she said.

Trenton’s libraries’ closings impact a student population already vulnerable to summer reading losses.  Sixty-one percent of low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their homes and their families may have difficulties securing transportation to and from bookstores or the one remaining library.  In the City of Trenton, more than 70 percent of third grade students perform below proficiency levels in Language Arts.   This could have lasting effects, as three-quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade remain poor readers in high school and are far more likely to drop out than their peers.

The Book Fair provides volumes organized into categories that include Children, Juvenile Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), Hobbies and How-To, and History and Biography.  With today’s selection, Senator Turner’s passion to help young readers has distributed more than 20,000 books since the program’s inception in 2015.