by Erikah Haavie, Contributing Writer
Hundreds of students at Greenville’s Duncan Chapel Elementary School left their classrooms recently with treats in their backpacks.
Some selected copies of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Brown Bear, Brown Bear for themselves. Others chose books to give to their brothers and sisters. But no one went home empty-handed.
More than 100 volunteers came together to collect more than 2,500 new and gently used books, 1,200 of which were shared with kindergarten through fifth-grade students at the school. It was the first book fair for the Upstate Chapter of Livi’s Library, a project of Furman’s Riley Institute and the Diversity Leaders Initiative.
The AT&T Pioneers, Mitchell Road Presbyterian Church, Michelin North America, ScanSource, Furman students and faculty, and students in the university’s Bridges to a Brighter Future program assisted in collecting books or volunteering time to assist with the event, which gave 600 students two books each.
Livi’s Library, which has now expanded statewide, was started in memory of Mary Olivia Pettit, 9-year-old daughter of Bryan and Lisa Pettit of Lancaster, S.C., who died March 22, 2009, of viral myocarditis. Livi loved reading and wanted to share her passion for reading with other children.
“It’s a celebration of reading,” said Susan Shi, a DLI graduate and retired First Lady of Furman.
Volunteers in the Upstate, Midlands and Lowcountry chapters are continuing to collect children’s books and distribute them through free book fairs in high-needs, high-poverty schools. They are also building bookshelves and filling them with books in places frequented by high-needs families with children, such as food banks, childcare centers, animal shelters and schools. The project is designed to help children in poverty develop a love of reading and thereby boost their chances for success in life.