Representatives from Kiwanis Bendigo and Communities for Children visited Bendigo Senior Secondary College this week to thanks students for their involvement with the Bendigo Book Box program.

The initiative began in 2015 and allows children to take a book, bring it home, then swap or return the book for free. Book Boxes can be found all around the Bendigo region in places like doctors’ waiting rooms, hairdressers, primary schools and other public places.

The timber for the boxes is supplied by Central Kitchens and much of the construction is done by inmates at Loddon Prison.

Brian Pedretti from Kiwanis Bendigo said there were now more than 70 boxes located around the region with more to come.

“We know this project is making a real difference in the lives of children, which is what Kiwanis is all about,” Mr Pedretti said. “The association with Communities for Children, Central Kitchens and Loddon Prison has been fantastic, and to have BSSC students do such a wonderful job of painting the boxes is icing on the cake.”

Gabby Barrett from Bendigo Health’s Language and Literacy Project said the program was receiving a lot of positive feedback from the community.

“It’s great for kids to have access to books for free with no obligation to return them,” she said. “We know they have a positive impact on literacy and children’s wellbeing.

“The organisations and businesses that have the boxes love it because children have something to do and their waiting rooms are much calmer places. And, because they’re pre-loved books, it means they aren’t being thrown out or ending up in recycling.”

The program is not only a success locally. The Bendigo Book Box program recently won a silver medal at the Kiwanis International Distinguished Service Awards in Florida.

“We’re thrilled with the award,” Mr Pedretti said. “Kiwanis is looking out for kids in every corner of the globe with more than half a million volunteers who serve their community through local clubs like ours.

“This is an award for everyone involved in the program, including the students here.”