Breaking Down Literacy Barriers – One Bag of Books at a Time

Tables piled high with children’s books greeted United Way volunteers on December 1st. Three times a year, United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA’s) Success by 6 program packs bags of books to give to local students in Birmingham City Schools preschool classrooms and childcare centers. Each year, students receive a total of 15 brand new, age-appropriate books that fall into a range of categories, such as science, school readiness, history and fiction. A bilingual book is often included, as well as a kindergarten readiness calendar and resources for families.

Volunteers from UWCA’s J. Mason Davis Leadership Society, an affinity group that brings together African American changemakers who champion diversity and opportunity, spent the morning packing about 800 bags, totaling more than 4,000 books. This particular distribution was unique, because part of the funding for the books came from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as part of its campaign honoring J. Mason Davis.

“Mr. Davis has a passion for literacy, especially in youth,” said Victoria White, an Individual Giving Officer at UWCA. “Because of this, a lot of our J. Mason Davis Leadership Society volunteer events revolve around literacy to honor his legacy.”

Several companies were represented, including Spire, Regions Financial Corporation, Alabama Power and Arlington Properties. When asked why volunteering was important to his company, Joe Hampton, CEO of Spire who also rolled up his sleeves to pack some books, said, “At Spire, we’re all members of our community. In order for our community to be a stronger place with a greater quality of life, we challenge our employees to give back. We’re all blessed in some way, so we want to give back to continue to make this a great place to work, live and play.”

The Success by 6 program has helped more than 29,000 children receive literacy support, making it the perfect program to partner with the J. Mason Davis Leadership Society, which advocates for a world free of literacy barriers, in line with Mr. Davis’ passion. Thank you to all who participated in this project and to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for its generous contribution.