Geraldine Stirtz
director of the Office of Service-Learning, 308.865.8957

Rural Corps of South Central Nebraska, an AmeriCorps Program, and several Kearney Community partners, will be participating in ServeNebraska’s 2012 statewide Cornhusker Book Drive April 14th through April 29th. Sequels Bookstore, at Hilltop Mall, is sponsoring a special two-day Scholastic Book Fair to celebrate the start of the two week book drive Saturday, April 14th and Sunday, April 15th . Book Fair hours are 10-6 Saturday and 12-6 Sunday. Children’s and adult books will be available for purchase at the book fair. Individuals unable to attend the book fair may go to Scholastic’s Rural Corps website to order books for your family or provide a donation to the bookdrive.

The Rural Corps goal for the Scholastic book fair and website sales is at least $2,000 which will generate $1,100 dollars to purchase Scholastic books; more than $2,000 dollars in sales allows Rural Corps to receive 55% of total sales. Sequels Bookstore and Scholastic’s partnership with Rural Corps creates an incredible opportunity for not only the children of the Kearney area, but children across the nation. For every dollar donated, during the book fair, book drive, and these website sales, Scholastic will donate one book to one of two national charities Rural Corps has selected to support: Kids in Distressed Situations and The Kids in Need Foundation. The average Scholastic book costs two dollars, this means each donated dollar is worth at least three dollars! Investing in children’s literacy is a smart choice.

Local agencies receiving the books collected and purchased during the Cornhusker Book Drive, including the age group each organization serves are:

  • Youth Rehabilitation & Training Center (YRTC) – boys 12 to18
  • Early Development Network Program – birth to 5, board books appreciated.
  • Kearney Community Learning Center, Summer Program Students – first through sixth grades.
  • Operation Paperback – adult, Operation Paperback sends books to troops stationed abroad or those in military hospitals.
  • Good Samaritan Pediatrics Ward – birth to eighteen, children’s videos and games also appreciated.
  • Family Advocacy Network – birth to adult.
  • KidZone Summer Program Students – pre-k through fourth.
  • English as a Second Language (ESL): UNK College of Education & Community groups listed above. Many requests have been made for English/Spanish bi-lingual books as well as Spanish, and Somali language books. ESL children’s books are especially desired but books for all age groups would be appreciated.

The following business and organization partners have offered to serve as drop off sites for donated books:

  • Good Samaritan Hospital, main lobby.
  • Solid Rock Books on the Bricks.
  • YMCA.
  • The Arc of Buffalo County
  • Kearney Public Library
  • Nebraska Firefighters Museum
  • Kearney Area Children’s Museum, KidZone
  • New Hope Church
  • UNK Frank House
  • Kearney High School
  • Sequels Book Store
  • AmeriCorps Office in the College of Education

Special community partners are the Literacy Council and Friends of the Kearney Public Library. The Nebraska Firefighters Museum & Education Center is donating warehouse space for book storage and sorting. Rural Corps AmeriCorps Members will sort and distribute books May 5th through 11th, as well as throughout the summer and fall as donations from publishers become available.
The primary goal of Rural Corps Cornhusker Book Drive is to put books into the hands of children who need them most. Books transform homes into rich and vital learning environments, they open the door to adventure and possibility, books allow children to dream. Reports released by the Kellogg Foundation and The Heart of America Foundation found:

  • On average, children in economically poor neighborhoods have only 1-2 age appropriate books in their homes
  • 61% of low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their homes for their children; in the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods the ratio may be as high as 1 book per three hundred children (Neuman; Celano 2001) .
  • The home environment – specifically the availability of reading material – is a stronger predictor of later academic achievement than socio-economic status.
  • Inability to read is linked to poverty, dependence on welfare, unemployment, and crime.
  • 75% of school dropouts report reading problems, and at least half of adolescents and young adults with criminal records have difficulty reading.
  • 70% of fourth graders cannot read at grade level, and children in the poorest families are six times as likely as children in more affluent families to drop out of school.
  • A child who is not a fluent reader by fourth grade is likely to struggle with reading into adulthood.
  • The gap is widening between the reading skills of the highest and lowest performing students. The best students are reading better while the worst students are falling further behind.
  • Access to printed materials has been found to be the critical variable effecting reading skills acquisition.

We can make a tremendous difference in the lives of children in the Kearney area and in the future of Nebraska by ensuring all children have their own personal libraries. The Corporation for National and Community Service ( is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America, and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve in approximately 70,000 Not For Profits across the United States. The Corporation for National and Community Service is a catalyst for change and champion for the ideal that every American has skills and talents to share. As a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps’ mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.

AmeriCorps engages more than 80,000 men and women in intensive service each year through more than 15,000 nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith- based groups across the country. AmeriCorps members help communities tackle pressing problems while mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve. Members gain valuable professional, educational, and life benefits, and the experience has a lasting impact on the members and the communities they serve. AmeriCorps consists of three main programs: AmeriCorps State and National, whose members serve with national and local nonprofit and community groups; AmeriCorps VISTA, through which members serve full time fighting poverty; and AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), a team-based residential program for young adults 18-24 who carry out projects in public safety, the environment, youth development, as well as disaster relief and preparedness. ServeNebraska, the Nebraska Volunteer Service Commission, ( coordinates and supports community involvement by Nebraskans, which addresses the needs of communities across the state. The Commission coordinates AmeriCorps programming in Nebraska, celebrates volunteer achievements through quarterly and annual Awards, provides training and technical assistance, as well as strives to ensure that those with disabilities are fully involved with AmeriCorps programs. Rural Corps of South Central Nebraska, an AmeriCorps Program is a campus/community partnership between the UNK Office for Service-Learning and the Kearney Area Community Foundation. For more information about Rural Corps, visit, or contact: Geraldine Stirtz, Director