When Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) wanted teachers to create their own classroom libraries for students, Sharlene Abney thought she’d have to dig into her own wallet.
“Finding books is not cheap. I would go on Craigslist or go to garage sales,” said the first grade teacher at Skipwith Elementary. Thanks to the school district’s partnership with Goodwill, she now has access to free books for her students.
Goodwill answered a call to action from HCPS’s superintendent, who first asked the community in 2016 for book donations – everything from elementary and beginner books to young adult fiction — as part of the district’s Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum Challenge. “While we are blessed with resources in Henrico, in regard to our literacy focus we believe the more choices that students have, the better,” Superintendent Dr. Patrick Kinlaw said.
Goodwill receives hundreds of book donations each year at its 34 retail locations. Like all other donated goods, proceeds from book sales help fund Goodwill’s employment and education programs for job seekers across Central and Coastal Virginia. Since April 2017, Goodwill has donated more than 20,000 surplus books to Henrico County school teachers and librarians.
“The level of enthusiasm around the free book donation program is mind-boggling,” said Anita Tarbox, HCPS’ library services educational specialist. “Henrico County is very diverse, and some students come from homes without any books. This program is a great way to make sure as many students as possible have access to reading materials,” said Tarbox.
“We want local teachers and librarians to think of Goodwill as a great resource to help them find quality and appropriate reading materials for students,” said Russ Rainer, Goodwill’s donations coordinator for Central Virginia. “We’re putting thousands of usable books back in the hands of students, while keeping books out of the landfills through our recycling and reuse programs.”
“When you go to the bookstore, the books cost about 10 times more than if you went to a Goodwill,” said Susan Robinson, a speech pathologist with HCPS. She has helped hundreds of students who have issues with language and conversation skills for more than 20 years. She said the book donation partnership with Goodwill is invaluable to her work. “It can help students if I can tie their speech into reading or looking at pictures and talking about them,” Robinson says.
Tarbox says the free book donation program is a partnership that she’s excited to continue for as long as possible. “Goodwill has been a phenomenal partner because they want what’s best for students and the community. That’s something we have in common.”