With a goal of 2,500 donations, Charlotte Olson hopes to be able to share the joy of reading with hundreds of other kids in South Jersey through Reach Out and Read New Jersey.
It all started with a trip to Haiti.
Fourteen-year-old Charlotte Olson loves to read, and had gone to the island with her family a few years ago. While she was there, she couldn’t help but think about the fact that children there had next to nothing; reading was a huge part of Olson’s childhood, and the realization that not all children get to read was a bit of a shock.
“I saw that those kids didn’t have anything,” Charlotte said. “I grew up with so many books, like I couldn’t even count how many books I had growing up, and yet some kids don’t have any.”
Shortly thereafter, Charlotte and her mother, Vicky Olson, started their own initiative to collect books for those in the local community who might not typically read, or even have the opportunity to, unless presented with reading material.
Because of this, they decided they wanted to help local children in South Jersey in any way they could.
“We found it very hard to believe that in Camden there can be kids that don’t have books,” said Vicky. “The idea is that a book will get put into the hands of all the kids that come in for a well visit.”
They are partnered with the Reach Out and Read Program, an organization that encourages families with young children to read out loud together. The program serves 4.5 million children across all 50 states, while locally helping approximately 70,000 children in New Jersey.
According Reach Out and Read New Jersey Director Kim Byam, the program serves children up to 6 years old during well visits with pediatricians.
“The children get new, free books to keep, but most importantly, the pediatrician is also talking to parents about the importance of reading with their children out loud starting in infancy,” Byam said.
Pediatricians are trained about the program’s mission and the benefits of parents reading out loud to their children.
Books that Charlotte collects during her drive will go to CAMCare in Camden, which serves more than 700 children per year. The books will be given to children during well visits, but also be in waiting rooms for children to take as well.
Charlotte’s goal is to collect 2,500 books during the drive, which lasts until Thursday, Feb. 28. After two years of collecting, this would be the highest total the group has achieved — if they reach their goal.
New and gently used children’s fiction books can be donated at nearly a dozen drop-off locations across Camden County. Books are to be for children of all ages. Donated books should be in relatively good condition and donations cannot include books on religion, holidays, death or divorce.
There are collection points across Camden County.
In Berlin, residents can donate at B-Tan Berlin, located at 599 Route 73 North.
Meanwhile, Sicklerville residents have two collection points, with one located at the Winslow Animal Hospital at 640 Sicklerville Road, and another at Innovative Orthodontics at 1306 Liberty Pike.
Marlton residents can donate new and gently used books at the Family Health Center, 801 Route 73 North Suite C, Elmwood Family Physicians at 777 Route 70 East, or the Friends of Marlton Lakes little free library at 223 Park Ave., all in Marlton.
Finally, Mount Laurel residents can visit House Paws Vets in Training to donate at both indoor and outdoor locations at 833 Moorestown Centerton Road.
For more information, interested residents can go to reachoutandread.org or call (856) 796–0236 as well.