6.5Some might consider Benjamin Freedland an overachiever.
For his Eagle Scout project this year, the West Valley High School freshman was supposed to collect 300 books, all of which would be handed over to Reach Out and Read – a national nonprofit that donates new and used books to doctor’s offices across the nation.
He gave them more than 1,000.
“I love books,” the towering 14-year-old said, standing at an easy 6-foot-5 and admittedly still growing. “When I’m not playing sports or doing something outside, I’m reading.”
Freedland and his father, Scott Freedland, made the trek to the nonprofit’s Spokane office Wednesday afternoon to deliver the many boxes of gently used children’s reading material. Once unpacked, they laid them out on a banquet table.
Picture books. Nursery rhymes. Full-on novels. And Dr. Seuss classics. “A Fish out of Water,” is Benjamin Freedland’s favorite.
“Funny,” said Jessica Mortensen, the executive director of Reach Out and Read’s Spokane office. “That’s mine, too.”
Mortensen said the books will come in handy for the 5,000 or so children they serve each year in Spokane County, especially since the Legislature’s recent state budget cut their funding dollars in half.
The nonprofit works with doctors on a program that introduces books to children as young as 6 months old during regular checkups, which typically happen twice a year. Those sessions include talking to parents about how their child is developing with reading, and how best to share new stories.
Mortensen said their goal is to turn doctor’s waiting rooms into “literacy-rich environments,” with books in every corner. Then there are the new books the nonprofit purchases or has donated, which go home with the child at the end of the checkup.
Eleven clinics in Spokane County participate, said Mortensen, including Providence Health and Services. Statewide, the organization estimates doctors donate services worth an estimated value of $6.5 million per year to the program.
And as far as donations go, Freedland’s donation stacks up with the best of them. Mortensen estimates the nonprofit goes through about 10,000 books a year in Spokane County.
“It’s a large pile,” she said. “It’s quite an achievement.”
Like his brother, Jared Freedland, who in 2017, as a sophomore at West Valley High School donated more than 300 blankets and pillows at World Relief Spokane’s office after months of going door to door, Benjamin Freedland never sought to blow past his original 300-book goal.
But once he did, he didn’t stop. Going door to door for about a month and a half, he found his haul get larger and larger.
His father said that’s just who his sons are.
“I’m very proud of them,” he said. “They both exceed what they set out to do.”
Editors note: The story was updated Thursday, May 9, 2019 to correct the amount of hours doctors donate to the Reach Out and Read program.
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