In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic reached Brazos Valley, Books from Birth began in Robertson County.
“It was a bad time and a good time to start,” said Rebecca Villarreal, director of the new nonprofit. “With COVID, there were a lot of kids who were stuck at home.”
The region’s non-profit organization provides books to children aged 5 and under in health clinics, elementary schools, small libraries and, most recently, the Salvation Army. More specifically, the organization strives to reach communities comprising at least 70% of the economically disadvantaged population.
The organization began its work in Robertson and Hearne counties, but expanded to Calvert and Mumford and Brazos counties through the Salvation Army. In 2022, Villarreal said, she hopes to start partnering with HealthPoint clinics in Bryan, College Station and Rockdale.
In 2020, Villarreal said, Books from Birth distributed more than 1,000 books. In 2021, that number has increased tenfold, with 10,000 books distributed to around 3,500 children. By 2022, she predicts that number will increase to 20,000 pounds for 5,500 children.
Villarreal said it was difficult in that first year, especially with the pandemic, to make connections and build partnerships, but she knew there was a significant need to be filled.