My daughter's offhand remark brought a smile to my face.

I can't reconstruct her words exactly, but over dinner one night on her recent college break, she mentioned that she's looking forward to sharing her most treasured childhood books with her own children someday.

Then she started to rattle off titles -- many of which were by Roald Dahl, including "James and the Giant Peach," "The BFG" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox."

Her love for those books makes me feel good. More importantly, I know that the presence of books in her and her brother's life at an early age is one of the reasons they're becoming successful young adults.

It's simple: Books matter in childhood. All kinds of research backs it up. Children who are exposed to books -- and, notably, who have their own books -- benefit immensely. They are better students; they go further in school; they are more likely to thrive at all levels.

But in Buffalo, far too many children don't have their own books. This is one of the poorest cities in the nation, where two in every five city children live below the poverty line. And childhood literacy is a major problem.

That's why The News invests time, resources and money in the annual Books for Kids drive, now in its 18th year. And in doing so, we ask our readers to pitch in by donating new or very gently used books that will then be distributed, through various organizations, to needy children.

The month-long drive ends officially on Monday. If you'd still like to help in the weeks ahead, you can bring a children's book to The Buffalo News lobby or write a check to "Books for Kids/Project Flight" and send it to Books for Kids, The Buffalo News, One News Plaza, Buffalo, N.Y., 14240.

Books for Kids is run by Project Flight, a literacy organization that is synonymous with two longtime Buffalo State College professors -- Geraldine E. Bard and Elizabeth J. Cappella.

Dedicated educators who believe deeply in this cause, they have devoted themselves to this effort for nearly 20 years. WGRZ-TV, Wegmans, the public libraries and Barnes & Noble have all been stalwart partners. There is also a strong high school effort, with book drives taking place in about 20 local schools.

Over the years, the results have been impressive: More than 2 million books have been distributed to children in Buffalo and Western New York.

Have those 2 million books made a difference?

A 20-year study by Mariah Evans, a sociology and economics professor at the University of Nevada, makes a strong case that they have.

"Getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed," Evans told the Nevada News. "Even a little bit goes a long way."

The more books the better, but even as few as 20 books in the home is a significant factor in pushing a child toward a higher level of education, the study showed.

"You get a lot of 'bang for your book,' " Evans told the university newspaper. "It's quite a good return on investment in a time of scarce resources."

Bard and Cappella have known it all along.

Nor should today's emphasis on everything digital suggest any less emphasis on books for children. Many of the neediest children have little access to the Internet and electronic devices. Beyond that, "the doctors" believe that high-quality children's books have an enduring value that trumps the latest gadgets by a long shot.

They are sticking with their tried-and-true motto: "Give a book. Change a life."

You can email me at or write to me at The News, One News Plaza, Buffalo, N.Y., 14240. I also invite readers to follow my "SulliView" blog -- a look at media and pop culture -- at