Helping young readers

Regionalism: Joint drive can produce benefits far beyond giving low-income families books.

May 01, 2000

CHILDREN'S books don't have long lives. Often they get one or two readings and are shelved, never to be opened again. Others are read intensively for weeks and sometimes months, and then they are outgrown.

Baltimore County libraries are giving parents with collections of children's books the opportunity to clear those volumes from their bookshelves. Working in conjunciton with Baltimore Reads and Baltimore County Literacy Works, the libraries are in the midst of a month-long drive to collect thousands fo new or gently used children's books.

This drive has a number of tangible benefits. Families wondering what to do with the books their children have outgown can take comfort that they will be put to good use in the homes of families that don't have the resources to buy books for their children.

The books will be collected in the 16 branches of the county library system, and they will be distributed through children's literacy programs in the city as well as the county. Baltimore Reads would like to have 25,000 books collected by May 13, its fifth annual Books for Kids Day.

Too often, community service efforts stop at the city line. The county and city each have their own programs. For a variety of reasons -- institutional, political and emotional -- these programs never capitalize on the advantages of regional cooperation.

The two jurisdictions' elected leaders have made a genuine effort to demonstrate the advantages of regionalism. In the past few months, Baltimore County Execux tive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Mayor Martin O'Malley have developed several city-county initiatives -- from legislative agendas to joint law enforcement efforts -- that may bear fruit in the future. This book drive will produce immediate and tangible benefits.

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