Cheers filled the auditorium at E.K. Powe Elementary School last Thursday when Arlene Melchiorre, staff assistant in Duke’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs, told the assembled kindergarten and first-grade students what they would be taking home with them that day: three brand-new books.
The children screamed. They scrambled through the line to receive their gifts. They flipped through the books. They hugged them. And they asked again and again, “Can I really keep these?”
It was a familiar scene for Melchiorre, who chaired the First Book Campus Advisory Board at Syracuse University for eight years. And it could soon become familiar throughout the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, now that Melchiorre has formed a First Book Campus Advisory Board here at Duke.
First Book is a national nonprofit that works to give new books to children from low-income families. The organization has a national network of advisory boards, which raise funds and awareness for the program. The Campus Advisory Board at Duke — chaired by Melchiorre and filled with Duke faculty, staff and students — will distribute grants to literacy programs that serve children from low-income families in the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership. The board will begin accepting applications in a few weeks.
“I have always believed that if you can read, you can do anything,” Melchiorre said. “With the formation of First Book-Duke University, we have the capacity to give children in the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership the opportunity to build their own personal home library and, hopefully, encourage them to develop a life-long love of reading.”