Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs kicked off her new initiative, Let’s Read Orange County, at the Mayor’s Family Fun Day, presented by Week of the Family. The annual celebration was held at Jay Blanchard Park on Nov. 5 and is organized by Orange County Parks and Recreation.
The yearlong initiative is a partnership with Mayor Jacobs, Orange County Government, Orange County Public Library System, the Citizens’ Commission for Children and Just 1 Book, a bookmobile that has distributed more than 500,000 books to children in Central Florida. The initiative plans to improve literacy by providing 1,000 new library cards to Orange County residents.
“The goal of Let’s Read is to ensure that all Orange County citizens know about our wonderful public library system, and that they’re able to obtain a library card, which provides free access to an endless array of books, music, videos and other learning resources,” Mayor Jacobs said. “Especially for children who are learning to read, the library is such an important resource. The ability to read – and to enjoy reading – is so important. When we improve literacy, we improve opportunities for our young people and entire community.”
During her remarks, Mayor Jacobs spoke about the initiative’s co-chair and the inspiration behind the Let’s Read initiative, Just 1 Book founder Sarah Dewitz.
“Sarah founded her nonprofit organization at the age of 10 after being moved by a newspaper article about poverty among children locally,” Mayor Jacobs explained. “She reasoned that if families struggled to afford food and rent, they probably couldn’t afford to buy books either.”
Though only hoping to collect just one book from each student at her elementary school, Dewitz collected more than 13,000 books. Six years later, Just 1 Book has distributed more than 500,000 books to low-income neighborhoods.
To help with the distribution of these books, Orange County donated a bus that now serves as the Just 1 Book bookmobile, allowing Dewitz and her family to collect and distribute more books throughout Central Florida.
Orange County Library System representatives were on-site at the Mayor’s Family Fun Day to assist citizens with setting up library cards.
The theme of this year’s Week of the Family was “Family – A Team Effort.” Now in its 14th year, Week of the Family focuses on creating family-centered events in order to strengthen and celebrate Orange County families throughout the first week of November.
As part of Week of the Family, the Mayor’s Family Fun Day is a free, four-hour event at Jay Blanchard Park providing guests with live entertainment, carnival-like games, crafts and more.
At the event, Mayor Jacobs announced the winners of the “My Family is a Team” essay contest:
- Grade Level K-2 - Matthew Brady, Age 8, Grade 2, School; Homeschool
- Grade Level 3-5 - Elyse Pullen, Age 10, Grade 4, School; Eagle Creek Elementary School
- Grade Level 6-8 - Lauren Brady, Age 12, Grade 6, School; Williamsburg
Jack and Gail Adams received the “Grandparents of the Year” award, and Citrus Elementary School teacher Michole Michelson was the 2016 winner of the Paula Hawkins award.
The Week of the Family Foundation, Inc. began in 2003 as a local nonprofit brought together by a group of mothers and grandmothers to encourage more family unity.
Week of the Family runs through Nov. 12 and is focused on strengthening family relationships through education, wholesome activities and community service. Citizens of Orange County can see the full list of events for the entire family at the Orange County Week of the Family website.
To view photos from Mayor’s Family Fun Day, visit Mayor Jacobs’ Flickr album.