MELANEY COOK SMITH: FOUNDER, BOOKS FOR KEEPS

When Melaney Cook Smith met a second-grader in 2009 who loved to read but had no books at home, she wanted to donate a few books. “My first thought was why doesn’t somebody DO something about this?” said Smith. “My second thought was: I am somebody. I can do something.” Smith thought her involvement would end there. However, she quickly learned that many children from low-income families in her Athens, Georgia community face the same challenge, and that lack of access to books during the summer is a major contributor to “summer slide.” This well-documented learning loss affects children from low-income families at a significantly disproportionate rate, and is documented as a key contributor to the achievement gap. So she founded Books For Keeps, a program that aimed to prevent summer slide by allowing children to choose 12 brand new high-interest books at the end of each school year to take home as their own. Books for Keeps distributes 45,000 books each year in Athens, Atlanta, and Warrenton, GA. It has plans to expand to 15 additional schools in Athens, Atlanta, and rural Georgia.

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