In July, Henry moved her family from an upstairs apartment to the one directly downstairs. Something went wrong with her change of address, and the books stopped coming in the mail.
They stopped coming, that is, until Officer Antwan Carter of the Charleston Police Department knocked on her door one day, books in hand. He knew the neighborhood, and he'd asked around about Henry's family.
Carter wasn't the only officer who hand-delivered books this year. In the spring, as Charleston police officers sat in community listening sessions meant to build public trust as part of the Illumination Project, Begin With Books co-founder Janet Segal let slip during a roundtable discussion that her organization was having a problem with books that the Postal Service returned as undeliverable. A detective at her table agreed to help find the families who'd fallen through the cracks.
Now beat cops help sign families up for Begin With Books at monthly community outreach meetings. They work their sources to find families who've changed addresses. And they're greeted with big smiles when they make a delivery.
Tianna, now almost 2½ years old, has fallen in love with books. She pulls her favorites off the bookshelf at bedtime — lately she loves "Corduroy" and "All of Baby, Nose to Toes" — and asks her mom to read.
"She'll just pull out three or four, and I'm tired, but I'll read to her," Henry said. "She wants to read, so usually we'll read about three books at night."
Segal said the partnership with police officers has been a happy side effect of the Illumination Project meetings.
"We’re an all-volunteer organization and certainly don’t have the staffing power to redeliver the books, so it works for us as far as the administration," Segal said. "The police, it gives them the opportunity to meet with families in a really positive way."