Fort Worth

11-Year-Old's Mission to Collect 500,000 Books for Kids in Need

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Orion Jean has been on a mission for a little more than a year. It’s a "Race to Kindness."

“We are the next generation and we have to know how to lead,” Jean said. “There are a lot of bad things happening in the world and there are a lot of problems. It’s kind of difficult for me to look around and see all of this stuff happening and not wanting to be able to do something about it.”

The Fort Worth philanthropist has been putting his words into practice.

His Race to Kindness initiative started with collecting more than 600 toys for kids at a children’s hospital in Dallas.

His efforts then evolved when the pandemic took hold and left so many families without food and water. He set out on a mission to collect 100,000 meals for people in need. He reached that goal with the help of community and national donations -- all because of his idea.

He is currently working on his latest effort, collecting 500,000 children’s books to distribute. Diverse books in English and Spanish titles that represent all children living in North Texas.

An 11-year-old Fort Worth boy is on a mission to improve the lives of others by encouraging reading.

“It’s a big number, but when you think about it, it's just a small fraction considering how many people who don’t have access to the books that they want or need,” Jean said.

The rising sixth grader is well on his way to his goal with the help of his community and nonprofits like Book Drives for Kids, co-founded by Michelle Cook.

“I was having a conversation with a teacher and she was telling me that the kids were so impressed that she had read all these books for fun that were in her classroom. Many of them had virtually no books in their homes, so this idea just wasn’t clicking with them,” Cook said.

She and a friend started a grassroots effort to get books in the hands of kids in underserved communities. In their first effort, 2,000 books were donated. They then created the book fair experience for school-aged children at no cost to them.

It’s help Jean appreciates.

“I can’t do this by myself and I don’t want to. I want to have the support of people from all over the country,” Jean said. “Studies show that kids who have books in their home do better than kids without books. So, I know that books have changed my life and changed the lives of so many other kids around the world.”

Jean’s story won’t end there. He now has his own book coming out in the summer of 2021, “A Kids Book About Leadership.”

“It's about teaching kids like me that they might not know that they have leadership inside of them. It's about how to use leadership in their everyday lives,” Jean said.

Jean is holding a book drive July 10 at Literacy Archives located in Dallas at 1408 N. Riverfront Blvd. The donation drive is between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Jean also held a book drive at the Reading Partners North Texas office in Dallas at 2910 Swiss Avenue on Saturday.

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