The Giving Bookshelf plants roots in Newport News

New Jersey based non-profit was introduced to the area by sophomore Asia Farmer

~Morgan Barclay, Editor-in-Chief~

“I felt like I was a part of something that was already established and now I’m establishing something myself.”

As a member of the President’s Leadership Program, sophomore Asia Farmer felt she could do more to get involved in her community. As someone who is not local, she felt an even greater pull for involvement.

That’s why she’s decided to bring a New Jersey based non-profit to Newport News.

Bringing The Giving Bookshelf to Newport News, Farmer hopes to combat childhood illiteracy, by providing books to young children through day cares in the area. Farmer will be collecting books throughout February on Thursdays during the lunch hour. She will also be holding a large scale “Fill the Bookshelf” event on March 24, where she will ask organizations to compete against one another to bring in the largest amount of books. 

Bringing the organization to the area started with hearing about the parent organization in New Jersey. 

The Giving Bookshelf is a nonprofit created by a high school sophomore in New Jersey, dedicated to combatting childhood illiteracy. 

Inspired by their work, Farmer talked with her professor and Director of the Ferguson Fellowship Program, Dr. Elizabeth Gagnon to see if this organization could plant its roots in Newport News, as well.

Given information on the Ferguson Fellowship, Farmer applied and was accepted. This acceptance in the fellowship has played a key role in her continuation of the nonprofit in Newport News.

The Ferguson Fellowship is open to 30 CNU students a year. This fellowship funds students in addressing a community need by researching an issue or problem of importance and designing and implementing a new or unique plan of action. 

Farmer’s community need is the same as the parent organization of the Giving Bookshelf—addressing childhood literacy. 

“Kids should all have the opportunity to be able to read. Unfortunately, some parents might not have the resources or capabilities to read to their child and having this organization here to help is really important.”

Farmer said it is a lot of work but said she is proud of what she has accomplished.

“Actually getting the books is the most fulfilling [part of the process],” Farmer said. 

She reminisced about her experiences working the table at CNU, “A friend came and he had a bunch of his sister’s old books dropping them in.” 

Farmer hasn’t been alone in this effort. More than the Ferguson Fellowship, she’s reached out to other organizations at CNU and beyond, and she’s been surprised by the community response. “I didn’t think people were going to be interested in it.” However, many organizations have been interested and Farmer is still looking to bring more in.

She’s been supported by Fame All-Stars in Yorktown, Canon Virginia Inc., Starbucks in Oyster Point, New Horizons Regional Education Centers, Team Excel (Excel to Excellence), and the local Girl Scouts. She has also received help tabling from the members of L.A.D.I.E.S at CNU.

“Give a book to plant a seed,” is the motto for the parent organization of The Giving Bookshelf. Farmer has started planting that seed in Newport News with the help of a community of which she is becoming more involved.

You can donate preschool to Grade 2 books during tabling events or through the donations bin outside of the CCE Office.

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