Rachel Dinham is a self-proclaimed bookworm.
She recalls fondly of her parents, Mark and Jana, reading to her daily before she knew how.
Years ago when the Dinhams started volunteering at St. Francis and Helping Hand House in Puyallup, Rachel became stunned to hear kids in her own community were living without books.
“I realized that if people were living out of their car, they probably wouldn’t take books with them,” the 14-year-old Dinham said. “I felt devastated that there were kids without books in our community. Reading as really helped me with my education. If you’re not a good reader, it really limits your ability to be successful in school.”
Never miss a local story.
From there, Dinham’s organization, Turn a Page, was born. She approached her parents about the idea.
“They were a little surprised, but very welcoming to the idea,” the Kalles Junior High student said. “They were more shocked that I wanted to give away my books.”
If you’re not a good reader, it really limits your ability to be successful in school.
Rachel Dinham, creator of Turn a Page
In the early stages of Turn a Page, Dinham quickly became nervous about how collecting books would work.
“There was a little while that I didn’t want to do it,” she said. “So I stepped away. But eventually I came back.”
Before her eighth grade year began at Kalles, she approached her counselor, who got Principal Guy Kovacs involved in establishing a book drive at the Puyallup junior high.
“We ran with the idea,” Kovacs said. “We collected over 700 books by the end of the book drive.”
With Kalles and other schools in the Puyallup School District joining Dinham with her Turn a Page organization, she’s approached friends and family at other schools across the state and nation to join her cause.
“One of my friends goes to Mercer Island High School, and she collected 2,500 books,” Dinham said.
2,500 number of books collected from a drive that partnered with Turn a Page
With another friend in California and cousins in Boston, Dinham is working on getting book drives established there as well.
“The idea is that kids can donate gently used books that they’ve read — and enjoyed,” she said. “Instead of the books sitting on the bookshelf collecting dust, you can put them to good use.”
Additionally, the next steps for Dinham and Turn a Page is establishing a website, and possibly becoming a registered nonprofit.
As for how the 14-year-old finds time to create an organization, she says she does her homework right after coming home from school every day, and spends her weekends or weeks without tests focusing on Turn a Page.
“It’s really about people my own age can make a difference with just an old book, and it can help out other kids,” she said.
Rachel hopes to eventually go into the medical field or become a journalist. No matter what she decides, she made it clear that it will include something with charities.
“Rachel embodies maturity, and respect toward everybody,” Kovacs said. “We have great kids here at Kalles who want to make a difference. We are very proud of Rachel. She’s an amazing example to all of us with her heart and her spirit.”