Secretary Carson promotes book rich environments on the Suncoast


SARASOTA- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson traveled to Sarasota today to promote the department’s Book Rich Environments Initiative, and see what programs are working here on the Suncoast.

“Give them a view outside of their immediate surroundings,” Carson said. “And understand the potential, because if you can give a child that vision, they’re going to be ok.”

Kids at the Sarasota Housing Authority lined up in excitement to choose a new set of books, including Brentara Yancy’s 7-year-old son.

“He likes to read anyway,” Brentara Yancy said. “Well now, because going into school having to do like a reading program, so he was excited to come to get a book to add to his other books, because he has a lot of books.”

HUD’s Book Rich Environments Initiative encourages reading as part of the efforts to help break the cycle of poverty.

“If a young child is at their grade level in reading by the third grade,” Carson said. “It has a tremendous impact in the trajectory of their lives.”

Carson joined Sarasota Police taking part in their annual Book ‘Em Cops and Kids Literacy Event.

“Which gives the police an opportunity to interact with kids,” Chief DiPino said. “They get books, they get Ice Cream, it’s a great opportunity for us to build trust and relationships with the people in our community and it’s a fun event.”

Sarasota School Board Chair Bridget Ziegler says she was glad Secretary Carson was able to see how Sarasota comes together to provide Book Rich Environments.

“That’s something that Sarasota and the Housing Authority has done,” Ziegler said. “And as you can see more of the children are excited about the books than they are the ice cream, so I think it speaks for itself.”

“It’s so great what’s been done,” Carson said. “By the group here, the way that they’ve been able to work together, these are the kinds of things that work in our society, and the reason they work is because we have people who care.”

Carson says his own love of reading provided him with better opportunities, and he hopes to provide the same opportunities for these kids.

“If you can get children believing in themselves,” Carson said. “And understanding what they’re doing, and understanding there is a whole world out there, not just the neighborhood that they live in, then they gain the vision, and when they get the vision they’re unstoppable.”

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Samantha Sonner
Multimedia Journalist Samantha Sonner comes to the Suncoast from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she worked as a reporter and host for KRWG TV/FM reporting on local politics, immigration, and border issues. Samantha grew up on Long Island, New York. She received her Bachelor of Science in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University. At Syracuse, she worked at WAER, the campus NPR station and interned at television stations in Central New York. Samantha is excited for the Florida Sunshine, and to be living so close to fantastic beaches. Feel free to follow her on Facebook and Twitter for story updates and news, or to send her story tips and ideas. You can also email her at