This article was written by BenitoLink intern Emma Hoffman.
Kaitlyn Fontaine is on a mission to put books in the hands of Hollister’s youth to help bridge the gap created by distance learning and issues of limited access resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In just over a month, Fontaine managed to collect and distribute about 3,500 books to K-8 students.
Fontaine, who has reported for BenitoLink, is no stranger to trailblazing, humanitarianism and philanthropy. She grew up in San Benito County and graduated from San Benito High School in 2012. After graduating college, Fontaine moved to China and spent a year there teaching English to middle schoolers. From there, she joined the Peace Corps and continued her work with children. The Peace Corps took her to Tonga where she spent two years working in both a primary school and a high school. She’s since come back to Hollister and has been working as a substitute teacher. She plans to attend law school at Santa Clara University in the fall.
Fontaine’s mom, Julie Fontaine, is also a teacher. She knew of students in the community that were in need of books to read over the summer. That’s when Fontaine decided to host a book drive. She grabbed some books from her attic and contemplated that many Hollister residents probably have old books lying around that they would be willing to donate. She went on Facebook seeking book donations and was overwhelmed by the response. Before long she had nearly 3,500 books.
Every Monday morning, Fontaine hands out books in front of Sunnyslope Elementary School. Children coming by for their meals will see three tables of books to choose from.
“The books are for them to keep,” Fontaine said.
Books are pre-sorted by grade level and put into packets of five to six titles. Children browse through the collection until they find a packet of books that interests them. Fontaine says it’s important that the kids have options.
“My goal is to give these kids the tools they need to become confident readers, to fall in love with reading, but to do that they have to find books that interest them,” she said.
Besides distributing books at Sunnyslope, Fontaine has handed out books at Panoche Elementary and delivered books for distribution through the Migrant Education Program.
She says that the main idea behind it all is that “children should be able to read physical books that are theirs. Children in this area ended their year with distance learning, and they shouldn’t only have the option of reading books for pleasure through a screen.”
With so many children affected, Fontaine is on a mission to instil a love for reading.
To donate or receive books, contact Fontaine at [email protected]. She is planning at least one more distribution at Sunnyslope Elementary and is still taking donations for children in grades K-5 for a limited time.
BenitoLink hires interns year-round. Our Inclusionx Internship Program is supported by the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, Taylor Farms and United Way of San Benito County. We appreciate very much their support and share a common interest in helping area youth develop strong professional skills and improve their job opportunities. If you are interested in supporting our Inclusionx InternshipProgram which offers training and on the job experience in reporting, marketing, sales, graphics, computer development, photography or data research, please send your resume to Lois Locci at [email protected].