Empowering needy children with the written word was the focus of a recent book drive conducted by a Greenbrier High School student.
Greenbrier senior Jennifer Somma, 18, examined the correlation between literacy and poverty rates for her senior project. Along with her project, she held a book drive at Greenbrier Elementary in October and then a subsequent book swap at Copeland Elementary in Augusta last month.
"I didn't want to job shadow anyone," Somma said. "I wanted to do something where I was helping someone and not just learning something."
However, she learned much about the effect of illiteracy on people's lives.
"I found out that some areas build their jail sizes by the number of people who can't read and write," she said. "There were a lot of really weird things like that I never expected to find."
According to Somma's research, about 34 million people in the U.S. are below the poverty line and the nation has an illiteracy rate of about 40 million.
Through the auspices of First Book, a national non-profit organization dedicated to giving new books to needy children, Somma gathered the nearly 2,000 new books donated in a two-week long book drive and traded them with the pupils of the West Augusta school for their torn and tattered books. Children with no books to trade also were given a new book.
Somma, who plans to study nursing at Augusta State University following her graduation, said the swap made a profound impression on her.
"I go to Greenbrier, so I'm used to people having plenty of things," she said. "At Copeland, it was a whole other world.
"It bothered me so much. I wanted to go home and cry that these kids don't normally have a chance to get a brand new book."
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