The Baltimore Ravens have partnered with the Maryland Book Bank to help improve childhood literacy in the area.
On Sept. 12, the team unveiled the "Ravens Bookmobile," funded by Ravens Foundation, Inc., the charitable arm of the NFL team. The first event for the Bookmobile was at Abbottston Elementary School in Baltimore and was attended by quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and defensive tackle Brandon Williams.
"It's called a Bookmobile, but really it's just a mobile library," Smith told BaltimoreRavens.com. "I think that's fantastic, because [if] you look at the technology we have now, everything is online. Getting something in your hands and being able to read it is very important."
This particular vehicle is wrapped in Ravens colors, although the players and mascots won't be able to attend the majority of the stops. Promoting literacy is the purpose, with kids being able to come on board and take up to five books home with them for free.
"The Maryland Book Bank is extremely excited to partner with the Baltimore Ravens and bring books directly into schools and neighborhoods where children have little-or-no access to them at home," Maryland Book Bank executive director Mark Feiring said in a statement. "The power of being able to choose his or her own books allows a child to pick something they are genuinely interested in and can keep for their very own. It encourages that child to actively pursue reading."
According to the Maryland Book Bank, the Bookmobile is packed with "close to 2,500 books, including picture books, leveled readers, easy chapter books and non-fiction books that children can keep for their own home library."
One of those books kids will be able to take home from the Bookmobile is called "Poe's Road Trip to Ravens Gameday," which chronicles the team's mascot (who is also listed as the author of the book) visiting various areas around the state of Maryland over the course of a week leading up to RavensWalk on a game day. The book was published by Mascot Books and is also available for purchase via their website, major retailers and the team store at M&T Bank Stadium. Proceeds from the book (which retails at $14.95) will go to the Ravens Foundation.
According to statistics from the Baltimore Library Project, the 2012 Maryland School Assessment found 34.5 percent of third-graders in the city were reading below grade level, double the state average. The most recent statistics available from the National Center for Education Statistics showed 16 percent of Baltimore city residents and 7 percent of Baltimore County residents lacked basic prose literacy skills, making the need to break the chain of illiteracy much more important.
Fighting illiteracy doesn't end with the Bookmobile for the Ravens. The team has also announced a partnership with the group Reading Partners Baltimore, including an initial grant of $25,000. The mission of Reading Partners Baltimore is "to help children become lifelong readers by empowering communities to provide individualized instruction with measurable results."
The group encourages community leadership and tutoring programs to encourage childhood literacy.
"Distributing books to children through the Ravens Bookmobile and also funding Reading Partners' in-school tutoring program for the next five years will create a well-rounded approach to serving the educational needs of many children," Ravens Foundation executive director Heather Darney said via a statement. "Reading is a fundamental component, both in school and in everyday life, so it's important to offer students all the necessary tools to succeed."
Schools and organizations can request a visit from the Ravens Bookmobile via the Maryland Book Bank website (MarylandBookBank.org). The Book Bank gives priority to Title One Schools (those that are economically disadvantaged) and organizations that serve at-risk populations in the state.
Issue 226: October 2016