Hometown Highlight: Storybridge
Chandra Perkins, Executive Director of Storybridge has always had a passion for books and enjoyed reading to her children as they were growing up. Little did she know, those two passions would expand into something more than she could’ve imagined.
Perkins would often take her two sons and several friends across town to read books to children. Their first visit was to a local park where they read to eight children and allowed them to choose a book afterwards from her personal box to keep as their own. The idea later occurred to her that those children may have come from low-income families; struggling with difficult situations such as food insecurity and they may not have had access to books in their household. That’s when the beginning of Storybridge formed, in June 2016.
“I initially felt I couldn’t sleep at night if I couldn’t work on this somehow. It started out with me giving away books and then me reaching out to friends to see if they had any books to give away to these children. The idea kept getting fueled and parents started lining up to receive books,” Perkins said.
Today, Storybridge has helped place 220,000 books straight into the hands and homes of local children in Amarillo through numerous programs and initiatives. One of their programs is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, which allows parents to enroll their children to receive a new, age-appropriate book sent through the mail monthly. The program is available to children birth – 5 years old residing in Potter or Randall County. The books are 100 percent free and encourage children to grow up in a home full of books where they can be better prepared for kindergarten.
“The Dolly Parton program is specifically funded through donations and philanthropies who help us supply new books for this program. We currently have over 3,000 children enrolled in this program,” said Perkins.
Plans for growth are in the future for Storybridge as they are working to expand their current space by purchasing a new building. The new space would allow for a larger warehouse and office space for their staff and volunteers. Additionally, they are partnering with Amarillo ISD to provide birth to five-year-old-based playgroups for parents.
“This program is going to be intentional coaching for parents about how to help your child get ready for kindergarten and be ready to read,” said Perkins.
One of their most popular programs is the Little Free Library program where a local business, organization, or individual can sponsor a Little Free Library box. The library is designed to provide free, 24/7 access to children’s books for children who do not have an adequate home library. Additionally, Little Free Libraries are primarily installed in Title 1 neighborhoods serving the Amarillo community. Libraries are typically installed outside within these neighborhoods to allow simple access. All the libraries are built and designed from scratch and are made to be installed in the ground as a permanent fixture and are weatherproofed. Storybridge has installed 26 Little Free Libraries serving the community and four are currently in the process of being installed.
“We work with our sponsors to determine if they have someone to help design our Little Free Library or sometimes, we partner with local high school art classes to help us design them,” said Perkins. “After we get a library painted, we take them to our volunteer builder, and he builds them and installs them for us, and we choose a location.”
FirstCapital Bank of Texas (FCB) is a proud sponsor of a Little Free Library that will be presented on March 2 for Read Across America Day, to encourage children to get excited about reading. This Little Free Library, which was painted by FCB Marketing Specialist Jaci Morgan, will serve the students at FCB’s Partner in Education School, Pleasant Valley Elementary in Amarillo. The library will allow the students to have access to books at every grade level served within the school.
“My family has donated books towards Storybridge and we’ve helped support them through book drives in the past. They’re a wonderful organization that serves a great need here in Amarillo for children and their families,” said Jacob Ortega, VP/Relationship Manager at FCB.
To get involved with Storybridge, you can volunteer your time to help with book sorting, which is offered every month, or you can donate books and monetary donations to keep books supplied for local children.