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Life and Religion

Foundation's goal: Get youth to read more
The Open Book Foundation provides free books to local elementary schools
 
Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

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PHOTO/KEVIN DOUGLAS FOR THE CHARLOTTE POST
Ryan Howell, vice president of operations for The Open Book Foundation, reads to students at Nations Ford Elementary School last week.

With the motto “One book, One Child,” Carvent Webb II is on a mission to encourage young people to develop a passion for reading.
The Rocky Mount native said that although he was not an avid reader as a child, the books he did read proved to be invaluable.
“I was never really a bookworm in school,” he said. “But being exposed to the different people through reading different books just kind of expanded my knowledge and understanding about life.”

Webb, who has been stationed in Kuwait for the past two years as a civilian worker with the U.S. Department of Defense, said his passion for reading intensified last year when he wrote and published his first book “A Guide to the Simple Life.”

The book, which is about getting the most out of life without doing the most to get it, was inspired by his time overseas. He said being away from all of the distractions and “daily stresses” of modern life in America, helped him to gain a fuller appreciation of the simple things in life.

Webb said writing and doing research for the book sparked a newfound passion for reading that he wanted to share with youth in the community. So he began using half of the profits from his book sales to purchase books and donate them to classrooms in Title I schools.

Prior to going overseas, Webb taught at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, and said he witnessed firsthand the need for books.

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Founder Carvent Webb II

“My experience with Title I schools has been that because they are federally funded, they tend to be really limited in terms of the things they are able to buy,” he said. “Having more books available in the classroom for teachers just kind of makes the process of helping and encouraging kids to read easier. It takes some of the pressure off the teachers of trying to be able to provide books.”

In January, Webb and longtime friend Ryan Howell launched The Open Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization that buys and donates books at no cost to Title I elementary schools and community organizations serving low-income communities.

“The feedback that we are getting from teachers is that they need books,” said Webb. “They need help in any capacity that they can get help. We figure what better way than to take on a part of that effort and provide free books. We can’t always go directly into the classroom and teach the kids, but if we can make it easier for a kid to take a book home and read with their parents or have a extra book in the classroom for them to read in their down time, we will. We feel like any type of encouragement or motivation we can provide for these kids is going to be beneficial.”

The agency purchases new books at a discounted rate, averaging about $2.50 per book, through a partnership with First Book Marketplace.

Webb said he and Howell, who is the organization’s vice president of operations, have used their personal resources to cover the bulk of the foundation’s operational costs. He estimates that they have spent a combined total of $10,000 on purchasing books, shipping costs and marketing the program.

“Even though we receive some donations, we take on about 90 percent of the operating costs,” said Webb. “We are taking on those costs because we both believe in (promoting literacy). We both have benefited from having the opportunity to read, and we know that being able to inspire kids to read in any aspect is the overall goal.”

Their goal for the foundation’s first year of operation is to donate a total of 5,000 books. To date, Webb estimates that over 800 books have been donated to various classrooms across North Carolina.

Most recently, The Open Book Foundation delivered about three dozen books from the Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka to a third-grade class at Nations Ford Elementary School as students from Johnson & Wales University provided a catered lunch to the cafeteria staff in celebration of national Lunch Lady Superhero Day on May 3.

While The Open Book Foundation currently focuses solely on donating books to Title I elementary schools, Webb said he hopes to expand the program to serve middle and high school students as well. Eventually, he wants to grow the program globally and promote literacy in third world countries.

“Reading is basically the core of everything,” Webb said. “If you cannot read, it really limits you in all of the other things you may want to do in life.”

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