Local reading groups stock up children’s bookshelves to help bridge the literacy gap

PORSTMOUTH, Va. - “There was once a young prince who loved reading storybooks.”

In this case, a princess.

Iyara Wilson is a first grader at John Tyler Elementary. Just like any kid, she likes to, “Have fun!" Wilson said with excitement.

She tells News 3 she enjoys reading, but that isn’t always the case with some of her peers.

“If your only experience of reading is in school, you don’t think of it as fun; you think of it as school work,” said Lin Oliver, the executive director with Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Several literacy groups want to change that, which is why local non-profit REACH and SCBWI donated 1,000 books to Portsmouth Public Schools.

“We know that children who live in low-income areas have less access to books,” said Jennifer Goff. She is the executive director of REACH.

Every student who attended Wednesday's celebration inside the elementary school auditorium left with two brand-new books.

“I think to have your own bookshelf at home - doesn’t matter if it’s one or 10 - is very powerful,” said Oliver.

Iyara’s mother, Raven King, says she’s glad the donation is giving her child and others the opportunity to grow.

Related: Local high school senior gives free ballet lessons to young students

“I don’t ever want her to be able to have some type of reading barrier or failing in school because she doesn’t know what's going on," King said.

“There are a lot of things our kids face. These books are another world for them - sometimes the only safe place for them to visit,” adds Goff.

Whether it's fiction, mystery or a book filled with pictures, these students are on the right page.

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