TOTE to deliver 30,000 books to 40 villages

Published: Feb. 20, 2021 at 8:35 PM AKST
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While the travel restrictions continue to make going to and from many rural Alaskan villages difficult, many children have been stuck at home reading the same books again and again. For about 40 villages, more are on the way. A lot more.

In a warehouse at the Port of Alaska next to the TOTE Maritime offices, 30,000 books are being taken off large pallets and packed into smaller boxes for rural transport. They came through the Bookwaves program, and are being sorted by Melina Sevigny, her husband Daniel, and her two kids, Orion and Siersha. Some have already been delivered.

There’s a wide spectrum of books from popular mainstream children’s books, teen reads and a respectable amount of books that reflect Alaska culture, like “Molly of Denali.”

Sevigny said normally, the books are sorted by a large group of people in a short amount of time. They can’t do that because of the pandemic. So every Saturday for the last two months, she and her family have been going in to sort the books.

She said it’s only been within the last couple of weeks that more TOTE families have been able to go in to help out too at different times.

Sevigny said the whole program was almost put on hold because of COVID-19, and the books would have been sitting in that warehouse if they didn’t change the way they sort the books.

“We wanted to get these books to kids during COVID while they’re on lockdown,” she said, “and just getting them reading, I mean that’s the most important thing here.”

When they leave the Port, Sevigny said she takes them to Northern Air Cargo who flies them out to hubs for free. From there, she said they go on smaller charters like Orion Air. She said it’s everything from cars, snow machines, and dog sleds taking them to their final destination.

They get into the hands of kids like Connor Pleasant in Bethel. His mom, Christina Pleasant, said they got a call about some free books from a friend and went right away.

He immediately snagged a book about his favorite superhero, Spider-Man. A picture from his mom shows a face beaming with excitement behind his new book.

Connor Pleasant of Bethel showing off his new book he got through the Bookwaves program.(Christina Pleasant)

Christina Pleasant said her son loves books. She said his dad reads to him every night, sometimes around five books. Without a bookstore, getting new books for him has been tough during the pandemic.

“They usually have book fares and stuff like that here. And the stores here, they don’t really have books,” she said. “it’s good to get different books for him to read. Otherwise, we’re reading the same ones every night.”

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