• Lillie Burke

Student makes efforts against childhood illiteracy with Word Wagon

Casey Enright is spending most of her free time loading book donations into her car and using it as a mobile library for underprivileged elementary students.

“I learned that one in every 300 kids in a low-income neighborhood has an age-appropriate level book, and to me that was heartbreaking,” said Enright. “The purpose behind the Word Wagon is to provide these kids with an easy resource to learn about using a library, and the power behind books.”

The idea was sparked in early September, and, with the help of a few close friends and family members, the Word Wagon was born. Enright had her first successful event just a month later.

“I went to a food distribution in Franklin and saw a lot of kids standing in line with their parents. I thought it would be an amazing opportunity for them to come read so they would have something to do while they were in line,” said Enright. “On Oct.16 we officially launched the Word Wagon, and, out of 20 kids at the distribution, we had volunteers sitting and reading with about 12 of them.”

After working with One Generation Away, a nonprofit business in Franklin, Tennessee that conducts food distributions locally, Enright set up more dates for the Word Wagon to reach the community.

“We have arranged for the Word Wagon to have an area at every distribution we conduct,” said One Generation Away founder Chris Whitney. “No matter what city we serve, we plan on taking the Word Wagon with us.”

Enright’s passion for children’s literacy developed through her previous internship with Project Transformation, a local organization dedicated to keeping young students reading during the summer months. Project Transformation has even teamed with the Word Wagon.

“I’ve received book donations from my friends, my boss and recently just picked up a car load full from Project Transformation,” said Enright. “The donations I have received have been extremely helpful in launching this project.”

One of Enright’s priorities is to make sure the Word Wagon is making an impact on each child’s education rather than serving as a book give away.

“What I want people to understand is that the Word Wagon is not just a handout for people to get books,” said Enright. “I want people to grow their libraries, but I want to aid the kids in understanding the book that they may get to take home.”

The Word Wagon is rapidly growing, and Enright has big hopes for its future.

“I’m hoping that soon I can start going to nearby neighborhoods and have reading days where anyone is open to come and listen to a story and receive a book of their own,” said Enright. “The other thing that I’m hoping is in the future for The Word Wagon is hopefully finding a truck that I could design so people would know exactly when it was in their area.”

Enright encourages any students who are interested in volunteering or donating books to contact her through email, casey.enright@pop.belmont.edu. The next Word Wagon event will take place Nov. 21 at 1715 Columbia Street in Franklin, Tennessee.

This article was written by Alexandra Pace.

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