My parents owned thousands of books. The tallest wall in our living room soared sixteen feet high, and the entire wall was covered with packed bookshelves. My father had to stand on the very top rung of a stepladder and then reach as high as he could to take a book off of the top shelf. My parents are no longer with us, but that wall of books still exists. Throughout the rest of the house there were other packed bookshelves. I had access to these books, but I knew that they belonged to my parents.
The books that meant the most to me during my childhood were my own books. I had the opportunity to select and buy books at school book fairs and occasional trips to bookstores, and I treasured these books. In fact, I still own some of them, such as E. B. White’s Stuart Little and A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. I now know that I was a lucky boy. Many children, including thousands of children who live in Charlotte, grow up in homes bereft of books. These children do not have books to call their own. Promising Pages, a nonprofit organization located in Charlotte, is doing something to address this problem.
Founded by Kristina Cruise in 2011, Promising Pages collects new and donated books shares them with children living in Charlotte homes where there are few if any books. Kristina stepped away from Promising Pages at the end of 2018, leaving the organization in the capable hands of experienced nonprofit professionals Eric Law (Executive Director) and Kelly Cates (Deputy Director). I recently contacted Eric and asked him why he took on the role of leading this organization. Here is what he sent to me:
I was born into a multigenerational family of educators and raised in Charlotte. Growing up as the sons of a college professor and a bookstore manager, my brother and I took it for granted that we always had books at home and were introduced to reading early. As I got older, I realized that many of our peers did not have that privilege. I want to ensure that every child in my hometown gets the same advantage that I did. I am driven by the positive impact that book ownership can have on children.
Our mission is to provide ownership of books to underserved children and cultivate a lifelong love of reading through innovative literacy programs and partnerships. We envision a world where all children have adequate reading materials at home, can see themselves reflected in the books they read, and have made reading a joyful habit for a lifetime.
Promising Pages is still a relatively young organization. We are working diligently to strengthen our infrastructure and to increase the impact of our programs and services for the long term. Our overarching priority is to fulfill our mission by sharing even more books with underserved students in our community. Promising Pages has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, sharing more than 190,000 books in each of the last two July-June time periods. Many child-serving and literacy- focused organizations have come to rely on us as their main source for books, but we know the need is much greater.
While we expect that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will continue to be our primary avenue for sharing books with students, we are strategically partnering with organizations focused on housing, food insecurity, and with other area schools and school districts. Through these efforts we will be able to serve more students, help non-literacy focused organizations support the families they serve, and help us broaden our base of community support. As we continue to grow, we expect that Promising Pages will be widely known as the primary go-to source for children’s books in our area, and as an organization that plays a leading role in sustaining and enhancing the attention paid to the issue of children’s literacy.
We are also working intentionally to acquire more diverse and representative books to share with the students we serve, 90% of whom are children of color. Children should not only get to choose the books they read, but should also see themselves mirrored in those books. Representation matters.
As Promising Pages approaches its tenth anniversary in September 2021, we are focused on becoming a more mature, capable, and sustainable organization that will have a steadily growing positive impact on our community for decades to come.
For more information about Promising Pages, please click on the following link: https://promising-pages.org
I commend Eric and the other staff members and volunteers associated with Promising Pages for providing so many Charlotte children with their own books. In so doing, Promising Pages is making an important contribution countless children’s lives and to the continued vitality of Storied Charlotte.