Burlington County College (BCC) students and staff distributed thousands of books to children in military families as part of the college’s First Book Initiative to promote literacy in the community.

In partnership with New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks, the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and First Book, a national nonprofit dedicated to eliminating childhood illiteracy, BCC’s First Book Initiative distributed 43,000 new, high-quality books to organizations serving children who are designated as low-income, disabled or military.

Students and staff who participated in the project were privileged to hand books directly to children for the first time at the Joint Base’s annual picnic on Aug. 6.

“This initiative was rewarding on so many levels, but none compared with the thrill of watching a child light up when handed a new book to take home,” said BCC Interim Vice President of Special Projects Dr. Beverly Richardson. “The goal of this project is to get kids to read more and judging from the looks on the children’s faces, we are well on our way to success.”

The Joint Base was the largest single recipient of BCC’s First Books with 13,000.

“It is very gratifying to give back to military families who sacrifice so much to serve us,” said BCC Interim President Dr. David Spang. “We hope that the First Book Initiative encourages children, and their families, to read more in their journey toward educational success.”