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Kent State Joins United Way of Portage County in the Big Red Bookshelf Project to Promote Early Childhood Literacy

Posted Apr. 10, 2014

In an effort to promote early childhood literacy, Kent State University has teamed up with the United Way of Portage County on the Big Red Bookshelf project. The project places bookshelves that are built and painted bright red in early childhood education facilities around Portage County.

Photo from Big Red Bookshelf projectVolunteers from Kent State’s Division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs gathered on March 19 in the lobby area of the Kent Student Center, where they constructed and painted three bookshelves. Concurrent with the assembly of the bookshelves, the division ran a book drive for new and gently used children’s books, suitable for children from birth through third grade. The book drive had six drop-off points throughout campus.

On March 28, the United Way placed the first bookshelf built by Kent State at a daycare center in Ravenna, Ohio. The other two bookshelves will be placed at Head Start centers.

The inspiration for the Big Red Bookshelf project came from Kent State senior Leigh Knaus while doing an internship at the United Way. Two bookshelves built by volunteers from AMETEK have already been placed in childcare centers, and children can choose a book and take it home. Research has shown that more than 60 percent of Portage County kindergarteners need supplemental instruction, and giving them access to printed material is a successful way to improve reading achievement.

“The United Way wanted a standardized look for the bookshelves so that they could hand instructions to groups to build their own,” said Barb Boltz, project director for enrollment data and systems support at Kent State. “We were able to do that, so all shelves will now be consistent. The goal is to get the Big Red Bookshelves throughout the county in all childcare centers, especially those that serve low-income students. The children would be able to take books home, keep them and share them with their family to develop a culture of reading.”

Boltz said groups including the university’s Construction Management Student Organization have expressed interest in building bookshelves for the project.

For more information about the Big Red Bookshelf project and how to get involved, contact Stephanie Rummel, director of development at the United Way of Portage County, at stephanier@uwportage.org.

For more information about the United Way of Portage County, visit www.uwportage.org.

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Photo Caption:
The first bookshelf built by Kent State University for the United Way of Portage County’s Big Red Bookshelf project is delivered to a daycare center in Ravenna, Ohio. Pictured are (from left to right) Beatrice Mitchell, Sunday school superintendent at the Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church; Barb Boltz, project director for enrollment data and systems support at Kent State; Stephanie Rummel, director of development at the United Way of Portage County; Brian Duchon, president and CEO of the United Way of Portage County; and Shirley Powell, a member of the church.

Media Contacts:
Stephanie Rummel, stephanier@uwportage.org, 330-297-1424
Barb Boltz, bboltz@kent.edu, 330-672-1306
Emily Vincent, evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595