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Expanding Library Walls: Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury Unveils Storymobile

  • Did you know that Waterbury, Connecticut—a city of about 109,000 people—has just two public libraries? The main Silas Bronson Library has just one branch, Bunker Hill.

    Often vital hubs of community engagement, libraries are safe, important gathering spaces for residents to meet, take classes, access the internet to obtain services, hunt for jobs, and much more. And, libraries are key touchstones for parents as they help their children learn to read.

    According to Tina Agati, executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury, “Unfortunately, many of the families we meet do not use the public libraries. Without access to age-appropriate books and reading materials especially during the summer, children’s literacy suffers and leads to the loss of learning known as the ‘summer slide.’”

  • In February 2017, Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury, in partnership with many community organizations including the Waterbury Police Activity League, unveiled a Storymobile. Outfitted with shelves of new and gently used books appropriate for children through grade eight, the colorful, inviting trailer will distribute thousands of free books to area children, particularly those of low-incomes.

    Said Agati, “Our goals are to expand the walls of the public libraries, give children more access to books, promote programs at the Silas Bronson library and encourage a lifelong love of learning.”

    The Storymobile will meet children at places such as park and recreation programs, apartment complexes, summer camps, and family movie nights throughout Greater Waterbury.

  • Agati projected that the Storymobile will distribute 7,500 books to several thousand children in 2017. Up until now, Agati and her dedicated team—including Vanessa Vowe, Kelly Pinho and Stephanie Cummings—had been distributing the books out of the trunks of their cars, which were often collected via used book drives.

    Connecticut Community Foundation’s online giving event, Give Local Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills, was instrumental in filling the Storymobile’s shelves. Last year’s Give Local event netted Literacy Volunteers over $3,000, which was used exclusively to purchase books for the new trailer. Literacy Volunteers is also getting an updated website, funded in part through a grant from the Foundation.

  • The need for books is ongoing and Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury is participating again in Give Local to raise funds. A $25 donation buys five to ten new books, said Agati.

    In biweekly visits to housing complexes last summer, Agati had children waiting for her; they knew books would be delivered that day.

    She said, “To have kids waiting for us was awesome. And having a stockpile of new books so that they can choose their favorites is even better.”

    All donations to nonprofit organizations at www.GiveLocalCCF.org during Give Local Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills will be boosted by bonus funds and cash prizes. Let’s give back, give together and give more on April 25 and 26!

    View photos of Storymobile ribbon-cutting event