Helios Kaleb Alip was about as excited as a 4-year-old can be. That’s saying a lot.
He picked out 50 free children’s books from the thousand new books laid out on tables in Grassroots Books’ parking lot in Reno. It was a treasure trove; he knew it.
“He couldn’t even wait until we got home,” said his sister, Freia Francesca Alip, 13. “As soon as we got in the car, he started handing me books and asking me to read them to him.”
Once home, Helios spread his bounty on the floor and examined them one by one, reveling in the pictures, the pop-ups, the cut-outs and the colors. When he saw a familiar character, he yelped in delight.
“He loves books,” said Freia, who is in the eighth grade at Coral Academy of Science in Reno. “He’ll come up to me with like five books and say ‘read this one to me and then this one!’ He likes action stories and funny stories and books about cars and Disney characters because he’s seen the movies and knows them. He was very happy with the haul he got at Grassroots… In the parking lot, he was running around the tables and saying, ‘I want this one and this one!’”
Free books’ offer extends through October
Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this month, from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Grassroots, at 660 East Grove St. in Reno, is offering kids ages 2 through 8 the chance to snag up to 50 free books selected from the designated tables in its parking lot piled with 1,000 kids’ books. Tickets are free and can be obtained online. Parents and kids can arrive anytime during the day marked on the ticket. Masks are required for anyone age 3 and older.
“It’s been so gratifying,” said Zoe Miller, Grassroots Books owner. “…We are seeing a lot of children who had zero books at home. Having a home library is great. If we can help them get books when they are ages 2 to 8, they get the habit. When kids read for pleasure, they end up being able to write well; they end up having better lives.”
According to a study led by Mariah Evans, a University of Nevada, Reno associate professor, home libraries help kids succeed in school and in their lives. “Over time, we believe this investment in local kids will dramatically reduce poverty,” Miller said. “I think it makes a huge difference.”
Grassroots isn’t a non-profit business, but in this case it is acting like one, she said. “Our, supplier, Thrift Books, gave us an amazing deal,” she said. “We got 40 pallets, 160,000 books… We want to give 50,000 kids’ books away this month. It’s pretty radical.”
The store also offers free, “instant home library” book parties at Grassroots on Friday or Saturday evenings. Details are available via email: InstantHomeLibraryGroup@grassrootsbooks.com.
Helios’ sister reads to him every day
Helios, meanwhile, has already assembled an impressive library that will keep him busy for awhile. Each day, he lives the adventures of Lightning McQueen from “Cars,” or hobnobs with a Yeti from the Himalayas. He is hungry for stories; he is bonkers about books.
He’s always asking his big sister to read to him, at bedtime or during the day. If Freia is busy, she will ask him to wait until later, but Helios is crafty. “He’ll say, ‘just read to me for 30 minutes,’ and I’ll do it. When the time is up, he’ll claim it isn’t, even though he can’t really tell time. The ‘just one book more’ turns into five more.”
And, as the years pass, Helios’ just “five more books” will turn into… what?
Theodor “Ted” Geisel, a children’s author better known by his pen name, had some idea: “The more that you read, the more things you will know,” wrote Dr. Seuss in “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut.” “The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”