“We can tell the kids we love them. We can tell the community that we care. But they look at what we do. I say love is an action word. It’s a verb, and you have to show it.” – Denise Taylor
For Denise Taylor, saying you care is not enough.
She has dedicated her career to actively serving her community — first as a police officer, then as the director of the JCC Cornerstone in Todt Hill, Staten Island.
Looking back, her favorite memories of service are the days children in her program received new books from First Book.
“I wish you could have seen the excitement on their faces,” she said. “They shouted, ‘That’s my book! That’s my book!’ as they picked out their very own story to take home. It made them feel so special.”
Decades of research show the essential role books play in a child’s life — and the importance of giving young readers the choice to select books they’re interested in. Nearly 90 percent of kids ages 6 to 17 agree their favorite books are ones they pick out themselves.
Yet kids in Denise’s community and so many others continue to lack access to the books and resources they need, let alone a full library to hand-pick stories that fuel a love of reading.
As Denise has shown for the children in her program, books not only have the power to improve reading skills and report cards — they also have the power to inspire hope.
“No matter what kind of book you’re reading, it can open new worlds,” she said. “You may not be a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, but you can read about that transformation. And you can imagine other transformations for your own life.”
The impact trickles down to the students’ families and home education. With common literacy or language barriers of the parents in the community, Denise says giving books to take home allows families to make powerful progress together.
“We all just have to do our part,” she said. “If we can keep the books coming, we know our kids will continue to learn and grow.”
If you’re interested in supporting programs like Denise’s, please click here to make a donation. Penguin Random House is matching gifts through December 31, up to a total of 200,000 books, doubling your impact for children in need this holiday season.