Earlier this year, Phoenix Books received a $5000 check from James Patterson, part of the author's personal distribution of grants to independent bookstores. Now, the bookstore is putting that money to use. Phoenix Books for Kids will - via a Partnership with the Fletcher Free Library's Summer Reading Program - distribute free books to the approximately 1400 children expected to take part in the Summer Reading Program this year. Phoenix Books for Kids also aims to establish permanent libraries of forty or so titles at each of the Summer Reading Program's many satellite locations.
Beth Wagner, Phoenix Books' children's book buyer, says, "We are absolutely thrilled and grateful to receive a grant from James Patterson's $1 million indie bookstore campaign. Like Mr. Patterson, we wholeheartedly believe that developing a love of reading in children is one of most important things we can do. Phoenix Books has always been committed to serving our local schools and libraries, and the generosity of Mr. Patterson will allow us to step up our outreach efforts."
The Fletcher Free Library's Summer Reading Program is a free eight-week program designed to motivate elementary and middle school students to read and maintain reading skills during the summer. All children entering grades K-8 in the coming school year are eligible to participate. One third to half of the children who sign up live in low-income families. About half of the 1400 participants take part at the Fletcher Free Library’s main branch, while the other half of the children take part in the Summer Reading Program via satellite locations. Satellite locations include the Boys and Girls Club of Burlington, King Street Youth Center, Parks & Rec Champ Camps, Sara Holbrook Community Center, Burlington School District summer schools and area USDA food distribution sites.
Wagner will select dozens of titles for the Phoenix Books for Kids program. Summer Reading Program participants will each be able to choose one title to bring home at the end of the summer program.
This year, the bulk of the capital for Phoenix Books for Kids will come from Patterson's grant. Phoenix Books co-owner Renée Reiner has, however, already started raising funds in hopes that Phoenix Books for Kids might be able to provide an additional book for each child, and plans to make the program a permanent part of Burlington, Vermont's summers. "The Phoenix Books for Kids program will continue summer to summer," says Reiner. She hopes Patterson will continue to be a patron of the program, but is committed to continuing it one way or another, through community fundraising efforts.