The Ferguson girls check out part of a donation of books by Amazon’s FAT1 distribution facility in Fresno. They plan to revive some of the book drive efforts they began pre-Covid. Photo contributed
Written by Andrea Marin Contreras
Fresno’s Reading Heart keeps working on its mission to help kids fall in love with books with new partnerships.
The Amazon Fulfillment Center FAT1 donated more than 150 brand new books to Reading Heart at the beginning of the year.
“For them [Amazon] jumping in this with all these books and support, it’s a game-changer,” said Dwayne Ferguson, father of Reading Heart’s Vice President Danyell. “We are really thankful for Amazon for supporting this mission.”
Craig Norris — general manager at the Amazon Fulfillment Center, dubbed FAT1 — met Ferguson, Danyell and Reading Heart’s President and Founder Danay during a networking event. Instantly, Norris became intrigued and excited by Reading Heart’s mission.
“We invest heavily in the community,” Norris said. Norris has been working for Amazon for eight and a half years and is constantly looking for ways to “get back and support local organizations that impact the community.”
Norris said Amazon FAT1 will continue to support and help Reading Heart. Amazon FAT1 has helped a variety of organizations in the Central Valley including Central Valley Food Bank, SPCA, and the Mayor’s initiative “Beautify Fresno.” This year, Amazon FAT1 has donated $155,000 dollars so far and counting.
Danyell is excited about this new partnership because the brand-new books donated by Amazon FAT1 will attract more children into reading.
“Seeing another kid happy with books just makes me happy,” said Danyell.
Reading Heart is a book donation program founded by Danay, a Fresno resident, when she was eight years old. The organization’s mission is to encourage children to read and improve literacy in the Central Valley and the nation.
Reading Heart has collected around 1 million books and handed out more than half a million.
The organization has many programs in place to donate books to kids and engage the community in family activities. Reading Heart is back this year with its book tours, which consist of the organization’s custom mobile library traveling to elementary schools in the Central Valley so kids can have a chance to pick up a book and acquire an affinity for reading.
Reading Heart also has the Little Book Bins, a project with Every Neighborhood Partnership. In this partnership, Reading Heart uses old newspaper bins — donated by The Business Journal and the Fresno Bee — to store donated books. These bins are painted and restored by community members and then placed around Fresno’s neighborhoods where kids can have easy access to these books. Reading Heart offers a “Book Bin Fresno Map” on their website, readingheart.org, to help the public find the closest book bin.
“I found that a lot of kids would love to read but the majority of them don’t have access,” Ferguson said. Because of this, Reading Heart hopes to bring more bins this year to more neighborhoods in Fresno.
As of this year, Reading Heart has around 150 book bins decorated by community members, Ferguson said. There have been around 1,000 volunteers helping Reading Heart with its mission to spread the joy of reading while improving children’s literacy.
Danyell hopes to bring back “Reading Extravaganza,” a free event where community members enjoy community resources and games. During this event, participants are provided with a bag where kids can fit as many books as possible with the goal to make sure people have books to read over the summer. This event is in partnership with KSEE 24 and the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. The last “Reading Extravaganza” took place on June 8, 2019 — before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, Reading Heart will have a special partnership with the Fresno Police Department called “Operation Books and Badges.” Although details have not been released yet, Danyell and Ferguson are excited about what Reading Heart and Fresno PD have planned for the community.
People interested in donating books or volunteering can visit readingheart.org