By Kate Tobiasson, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Each week, The Westborough Food Pantry quietly provides over 130 needy families with food, thanks to donations from local residents. Run entirely by volunteers, the pantry is one of many organizations in town that help residents in need.
Naomi Botkin and her daughter, Susannah Gordon (12), saw another need that the organization could fill.
“I’ve been volunteering at the food pantry for a number of years,” Botkin said. “Most of what I do is restocking on my own time but there was a period of time when I was helping to distribute the food. The room where the food is stored is small enough that it can hold only a few people at a time. The clients end up waiting for their turn, and I thought that this might be the perfect opportunity for people to be able to look through books and find something to share with their kids.”
Susannah has had a lifelong love of books, and was eager to share her passion with her friends and the rest of the community.
“My mom had the idea for the book drive and the food pantry, but I wanted to grow it even more,” Susannah noted. “This summer, my bat mitzvah is going to be book-themed. Each of the tables is going to feature a book or series that I like. We’re going to use the books from the drive as centerpieces and then donate them to the food pantry.”
Botkin and her daughter have hit on a point that is often overlooked. In truth, early literacy is one of the most determining factors in future success. Children who are not read to regularly from birth to age 5 live among the nation’s poorest 12 percent. To help break the cycle of poverty, literacy and reading need to be encouraged.
While elementary schools in Westborough do an excellent job of promoting reading and loaning books, it is this early stage, before age 5, that is most critical. The Westborough Public Library offers books and services, but not all families have access to transportation or understand the importance of literacy. Housing books in the food pantry creates opportunity for families and children to have access to the books that can change their lives.
“It would be nice to know that families in Westborough have books that they own in their home, and that they can keep them,” Susannah said. “We want to help people who may not be able to access the library. Having books at home that become favorites that don’t have to be returned can be a big deal.”
Anyone looking to donate children’s books to the food pantry may contact Naomi Botkin at Botkinnf@yahoo.com.