Celebrating her 50th birthday, Elms threw a party with the theme ‘50 Books for 50 Years,’ where she asked those in attendance to bring books instead of gifts, which would then be donated to the Book Garden project with hopes of donating at least 50 books.
Elms and her son, Jack, delivered the donation last month with several hundred books, far more than her initial goal, enough to create an entirely new Book Garden at the Kalamazoo Defender’s Office in downtown Kalamazoo.
“As a former teacher, I recognize the importance of being able to read. I recently turned 50 and was looking for a way to share my good fortunes,” explained Elms. “I absolutely love the idea of a Book Garden, so I came up with ’50 Books for 50 Years’ to help create more gardens.”
Michigan’s reading proficiency has been in a steady decline for more than a decade and critical research shows the importance of literacy interactions in a child’s home. Kalamazoo County is identified as a book desert, meaning that only 21-30% of homes contain 100 books or more.
To address this local shortage, the Kalamazoo RESA Instructional Center created the Book Garden initiative, which helps to put more books in the hands and homes of children.
There are currently 16 Book Gardens blooming across Kalamazoo County; from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety to Pathfinder Church, Unified Clinics, the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission and a promise of more to come.
“The books that Maggie Elms and others have donated are critical to keeping our Book Gardens stocked, helping us to continue to provide a way for all kids to have access to high quality books that will grow a lifelong love of reading,” said Katherine Clark, Kalamazoo RESA Literacy Consultant.