Several years ago, I heard an interview on NPR about an organization called Teach for America (TFA). I was completely intrigued by the philosophy behind the whole program – getting bright, motivated young people on-the-ground, short-term, intensive training as a teacher, then sending them into some of the most at-risk schools in the country. Along with the countless traditional route teachers that we were already helping with books, I wanted to get Bridge of Books (BoB) involved as a resource for the TFA Corps Members in New Jersey.
Regardless of the route that these teachers took into the classroom, I quickly learned that they all faced and continue to face the same uphill battles. The list is endless: getting students engaged, getting them back on track, keeping them engaged, improving test scores and doing all of the above with an ever changing availability of resources – or lack thereof. How could they improve reading scores without ongoing access to relevant reading materials for their students?
I viewed BoB’s role as providing a resource – books – for these teachers and their students. Kids in the schools and agencies that BoB helped would have books to call their own, to read and re-read, to trade with their classmates and to discuss with their teachers. With feedback from students and educators around NJ, BoB could continue to refine and target the books in our donations.
Fast forward several years. BoB has had the pleasure of working with a multitude of TFA Corps Members in both Newark and Camden. We have created classroom lending libraries in high schools where none existed. We have purchased classroom sets for teachers and their students, so that no one would have to share a book and each student could mark their own book.
Sarra Schwartz, a former TFA High School English teacher in Newark, said the book donations she received for her class and high school were a windfall.
“A lot of my students have never lost themselves in a book before. For some of them just getting to pick out a book, getting to own a book is going to be their first experience of that,” she said.
Earlier this month, TFA reached out to ask BoB to help promote a campaign they are launching – “What’s the 1 book every NJ teen should read?” The campaign is designed to spark a grass-roots conversation around great books while opening up our schools to the wisdom of crowds. It runs from November 11th to December 16th and is open to everyone in the state of any age or background. Nominations will be narrowed through a two-stage voting process and the he top-voted title will be put in 53 schools. To participate, simply visit www.yourschoolsyourcall.org. Everyone who enters will get a chance to win a Kindle.
The chance to win something is always exciting. What I find even more exciting is the chance to be part of a grass-roots statewide discussion about books and how people – of all ages, backgrounds and professions – view books. I have my favorite teen picks, but I’m excited to see what will be nominated.
I hope that kids will be excited, or at least intrigued, to see what titles their peers nominate. I hope that the eyes of educators will be opened to the possibility of using new titles to inspire and invigorate their students. I hope that families will start a discussion around what books to nominate and even read together. Whatever the winning title, I also hope that we all keep a list of the nominees for future use and as a reference point to keep the discussion going. I know I will – both to improve what we books we direct to teens through Bridge of Books and to offer my own children a wide variety of reading materials as they get older.
So, take a few minutes to visit www.yourschoolsyourcall.org. Nominate the book you think every NJ teen should read. It’s your chance to make sure your voice is heard.
Who is helping give out half a million free books across America on April 23rd? We are.
WHO: On April 23, 2013, 25,000 volunteers from Berkley to Boston and Sitka to Sarasota to New Jersey will give away half a million free books in more than 6,000 towns and cities across the country.
WHAT: World Book Night U.S. is an ambitious campaign to give free, specially-printed books to light or non-readers across America. Volunteer book lovers will help promote reading by going into our communities and handing out free copies of a book we love to those without means or access to a printed book. With the support of our local bookstores and libraries, we’ll be sharing them in locations as diverse as hospitals, mass transit, nursing homes, Little League games, food pantries, and more.
”The volunteer book givers are wonderful, generous and passionate people. World Book Night is not a random giveaway, but a focused attempt to reach people in communities who would benefit from the gift of a book,” said WBN US Executive Director Carl Lennertz. “Our volunteers give of their time and energy to seek out those in need, one by one, on April 23. It is a very specific and personal act of kindness—the sharing of a book with someone you don’t know—and we hope that more will hear about this and apply next year to be book givers themselves.”
The Bridge of Books Foundation (BoB) is very proud to be participating in World Book Night U.S., and on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, our group of WBN book givers will be spreading the love of reading, person to person, by handing out books to light or non-readers.
We have chosen 11 of the 32 WBN book titles to hand out, as we intend to reach out to young adults in Salem, Passaic and Essex Counties. How? BoB will get multiple copies of WBN titles into the hands of educators across these three counties – educators who have few classroom resources and face the daily challenges of teaching struggling students. Hundreds of students who often do not have ongoing access to books will not only receive their own book to keep; they will have the opportunity to read the book as a class with teacher guidance and feedback.
BoB recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and has donated more than 350,000 books to at-risk children across New Jersey!
The 30 World Book Night U.S. titles for 2013, alphabetical by author, are (Bridge of Books is distributing titles that are followed by an asterisk):
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (Anchor Books/Random House)***
City of Thieves, David Benioff (Plume/Penguin Group (USA))
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks)***
My Antonia, Willa Cather (Dover)***
Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier (Plume/Penguin Group (USA))
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (Vintage/Random House)
La casa en Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros; translated by Elena Poniatowska (Vintage Español/Random House)
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho (HarperOne/HarperCollins)
El Alquimista, Paulo Coelho (Rayo/HarperCollins)
The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Ballantine Books/Random House)
The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Bossypants, Tina Fey (Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books)***
Good Omens, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett (William Morrow Paperbacks/HarperCollins)***
Still Alice, Lisa Genova (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster)
Looking for Alaska, John Green (Speak/Penguin Group (USA))***
Playing for Pizza, John Grisham (Bantam/Random House)
Mudbound, Hillary Jordan (Algonquin Books/Workman Publishing)****
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster; illus. by Jules Feiffer (Yearling/Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)****
Moneyball, Michael Lewis (W. W. Norton)
The Tender Bar, J. R. Moehringer (Hyperion)
Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley (Simon & Schuster)
Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life, James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)****
Population: 485, Michael Perry (HarperPerennial/HarperCollins)
The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion)****
Montana Sky, Nora Roberts (Berkley/Penguin Group (USA))
Look Again, Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin’s)
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris (Back Bay Books/Little Brown)***
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor Books/Random House)
Glaciers, Alexis M. Smith (Tin House Books)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mark Twain (Dover)
Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury)
Favorite American Poems (Large Print edition) various authors (Dover)
World Book Night will take place on April 23, 2013. World Book Night in the U.S. is a non-profit organization and has 501(c)3 nonprofit status. World Book Night U.S. is supported by publishers, Barnes & Noble, the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, Ingram Content Group, FedEx, printers, and paper companies; a full list of sponsors is at our website.
World Book Night and Bridge of Books would like to thank River Road Books for making this collaboration possible by initially receiving over 75 boxes of books.
In the days after Superstorm Sandy smashed onto our shores, my neighborhood came together. The Vallones had a land line; the Heines had a generator. Everyone was sharing, cleaning up the damage, exhaling. But our relief was overshadowed by news from neighboring towns. Sea Bright was buried in wet sand, Union Beach, just gone, people said. A friend’s daughter had been trapped in rising floodwaterin Toms River and forced to huddle in an attic crawl space with her newborn son for hours. Like many others, I began to wonder how I could help.
During this period, I bumped into my friend and neighbor Abby Daly, director of the Bridge of Books Foundation, at our local supermarket in Atlantic Highlands. She hadn’t showered for days. Her house was freezing. But, she said, the good news was that none of the books at the BoB storage unit in Red Bank had been destroyed.
I had been a supporter of Bridge of Books for a few years, volunteering for minor jobs like reading to school children on Read Across America Day. But I never felt the urgency of its mission as much as I did after Sandy. Hundreds of families were living in shelters. Surely the children could use the comfort of a book while their parents were busy trying to rebuild their lives. It was time to come up with a plan.
Abby decided to ask Bridge of Books volunteers to assemble tote bags, each containing three to five picture books suitable for preschoolers. She did not want to burden relief agencies, already swamped with donations, with unsolicited boxes of books.
Because I have a background as a reporter, I agreed to help figure out where to deliver the books. Shelters were off limits to the public. It was difficult to find out who was in charge. The Red Cross referred me to the State Office of Emergency Management, which referred me back to the Red Cross. A statewide hotline for donated goods wanted large quantities of new items. My nearest food pantry, in Highlands, declined books and, in fact, offered me some for our project. Other sources dried up. People were busy and overwhelmed.
After days of searching, I got a crucial lead from a contact of Abby’s at the state Department of Labor. It was a spreadsheet containing the cell phone numbers of managers at Federal Disaster Recovery Centers across the state.
These centers, called DRCs ,help storm victims with insurance claims, FEMA grants and referrals to other agencies, like the Small Business Administration. There were 51 DRCs in New Jersey in early November. In February, there were 31. Now there are nine, housed in office buildings, storefronts and community centers.
When I called Eileen Lopez, the DRC manager in Bay Head, in November, she was thrilled by the offer of children’s books.
“I’d love it! Bring it on!” she said.
Bay Head was devastated and the National Guard was enforcing a 5 p.m. curfew there. She said she was at “Ground Zero.” Her clients had lost their homes and possessions. Many brought children to the center.
Ten DRC managers wanted our bags of books. So, using a Web application, SignUp Genius, I asked for volunteers to deliver about 150 bags to Bay Head, Brick, Sayreville, Leonardo, Hackensack, Atlantic City, Toms River, Newark, Hoboken, and Plainfield during the first week of December. Like me, volunteers were hungry to help, and they claimed the slots within hours. The New Jersey Youth Corps took some of the deliveries. I volunteered to drive books to Brick because I had to run an errand in Howell that week.
There I met manager Linda Hoskins, a warm, upbeat Indianan who has remained cheerful despite working from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with only a few days off since the Oct. 29 storm.
“These are people who are shell shocked and need help navigating the system,” Linda said. “This can be a long, drawn-out affair. The waiting area is adequate at best.”
She gestured toward a row of molded plastic chairs lined against the walls of the center, housed in a former strip mall owned by the township. Initially, the center drew 200 people a day. Now, between 50 and 75 visit each day, many with kids.
Linda has called me three times to deliver bags of books – two dozen at a time, now including books for older children.
“You ought to see the smiles when you hand the books to the kids and you say, “you can take them home!’” she said.
She assured me she will keep asking for books until the center closes, which, she says, is no time soon. Each time I visit, she tells me how grateful she is. Each time I leave, I call Abby and tell her how amazing it feels to be able to help.
Rumson, NJ – June 19, 2012
If you’ve ever read a picture book to a child, then you know that William Albert Allard, noted photographer and writer, was correct when he said that “…words and pictures can work together to communicate more powerfully than either alone.” At Bridge of Books, we agree so we created a video montage to tell our story. Bridge of Books’ Executive Director Abigail Daly worked with Jeff White of White Custom Media in Fair Haven, New Jersey to tell the foundation’s story in pictures. Bridge of Book’s mission is to donate new and gently used books to underprivileged and at-risk children throughout New Jersey to encourage a love of reading and literacy skills. We invite you to watch Bridge of Books in action and see the joy that books provide. Click here.
About The Bridge of Books Foundation
The Bridge of Books Foundation is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) located in New Jersey Bridge of Books’ mission is to provide an ongoing source of books to underprivileged and at-risk children throughout New Jersey in order to support literacy skills and to encourage a love of reading. Since 2003, BoB has donated 300,000 books to more than 100 agencies serving at-risk children across New Jersey.
The Foundation generally acquires books through book drives and individual donations. Bridge of Book operates in accordance with several core beliefs: all children should have ongoing and ready access to age appropriate books; books in the home have the power to change lives – providing an understanding of the world, encouraging imagination and promoting dreams; and sharing books strengthens communities. As Ms. Daly is fond of saying, “Good books should never be read only once!”
About Jeffrey White
Jeff White started messing about his family’s print shop as young child, Jeff. He has always been fascinated by the process of turning raw materials into art and vehicles for the dissemination of information. Jeff graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1994 with a Master’s Degree in printing technology and a strong background in digital imaging. He spent 17 years in printing sales working with publishers, ad agencies, designers, marketing directors and corporate buyers. As the landscape for print media changed over time, Jeff moved into cross-media marketing programs using any combination of email, text messages, video, audio and print.
In 2006, he started his own firm and works on a variety of projects that include book production, video editing, photography, photo restoration, film conversion, and color retouching. In addition to these services, he also provides design, web, printing and publishing solutions and serves as a consultant to many of his clients. Jeff currently maintains a small office in Fair Haven, NJ doing business as White Custom Media, offering his services to consumers, businesses and corporations.
Newark, New Jersey, June 15, 2012 – Bridge of Books’ (BoB) Executive Director, Abby Daly, along with Board member, Ellen McNamara, and volunteer, Cindy Gagliano, traveled to East Side High School to meet with students at lunch to announce the 10 winners of the inaugural “Hunger Games writing contest.” Created as a way to get kids thinking more about books and their importance, BoB asked students to write why they wanted to win the Hunger Game Trilogy, why reading is important and why books are important. Over 200 entries were received by BoB.
After careful review by a panel of Judges and Board members, ten students were awarded (1) The Hunger Games Trilogy in hard cover and (2) a book of each student’s choosing. Read who the winners were, what they had to say about the importance of reading and the book that each winner chose.
Christofer O. – 10th Grade
Alisson C. – 9th Grade
Daniel S. – 9th Grade
Anel G. – 9th Grade
Giuseppe L. – 10th Grade
Mario C. – 10th Grade
Dan B. – 10th Grade
Kimberly R. – 12th Grade
Vera G. – 10th Grade
Iyanah W. – 9th Grade
Every student who entered received a paperback copy of The Hunger Games. A generous donation by Kid’s Corner of The Charles Lafitte Foundation enabled BoB to purchase 200 copies of the book for each of the entrants. All the students – winners and entrants alike – were thrilled to receive the books. Sarra Schwartz and Michael Smith, the English teachers for the large percentage of the entrants and both members of Teach for America, were grateful for the opportunity to get more books into the hands of their students.
Of the whole experience, Ms. Daly said “It was a great way to expand what we do and come at the issue of getting more books into the hands of at-risk kids from a new and different angle. This is something that we can and will repeat with other high school students throughout the State.”
WE ASK HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS IN NEWARK TO TELL US WHY FOR A CHANCE TO WIN THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins and more!
Rumson, New Jersey May 2, 2012. Bridge of Books has enlisted the help of Teach for America to challenge high school students (grades 9-12) in Newark, New Jersey, to describe (1) why they want to read The Hunger Games; (2) what reading means to them; and (3) why books are important to them. Students must answer each question in five sentences or less. ALL entrants will win a copy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the top ten entries, as determined by a panel of judges recruited by Bridge of Books, will win all three books in the Hunger Game Series – The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mocking Jay, plus the book of their choice. Teach for America teachers in Newark are working with Bridge of Books to tell students about the contest and to collect written entries. Entries will be submitted to Bridge of Books by May 23, 2012, and winners will be notified on June 15, 2012.
Bridge of Books created the contest as a way to further its mission of supporting literacy skills and encouraging a love of reading by distributing new and gently used books to under-privileged and at-risk youth. According to Abby Daly, Executive Director of Bridge of Books, “We are excited to kick off our first writing contest and to work with Teach for America to help us reach out to students in Newark. This is a chance to hear directly from high school kids what reading means to them. We are also grateful to our terrific panel of judges for volunteering their time to help select the winners.”
Meet the Judges
Tricia McCarthy – As a passionate supporter of literacy, a current nonprofit consultant, former attorney and founder of the original Bridge of Books in San Francisco, California, Ms. McCarthy understands the importance of books in the home of underprivileged youth. She is also a huge fan of The Hunger Games series.
Kyra Citron – The youngest member of our team, 14-year old Kyra spearheads The Charles LaFitte Foundation’s Kid’s Korner where kids have a say in how to make the world a better place. She loves reading and is an avid supporter of Bridge of Books.
Karen Rumage, Sharon Everett, Kim Robinson and Laurie Potter of River Road Books – River Road Books is an independent bookstore in Fair Haven, NJ dedicated to spreading the love of reading to children and adults in their community and a longtime supporter of Bridge of Books.
Lee Ann Murray – Managing Directory & Chief Information Officer for MetLife, Ms. Murray leads Global Investments Information Technology. Ms. Murray believes that Bridge of Books plays a critical role in helping to strengthen our country’s most important asset — its children.
Mary Kotch – As Chief Architect for MetLife Investments IT, Ms. Kotch is responsible for establishing the technology vision and leading all aspects of infrastructure development. As an advocate for lifelong learning and an adjunct professor for over 15 years, she is honored to be involved in such a worthwhile cause.
Lisa Barile – Stakeholder Outreach Specialist, PSEG Power LLC. As a lifelong reader, Ms. Barile knows that books have made her a more critical and creative thinker. She is thrilled to be part of a contest that inspires those same skills in today’s students.
ABOUT BRIDGE OF BOOKS
Bridge of Books is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all-volunteer organization. Our mission is to provide an ongoing source of gently used and new books to underprivileged and at-risk children throughout New Jersey in order to support literacy skills and to encourage a love of reading.
ABOUT TEACH FOR AMERICA
Teach For America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.
“MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR”
-Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
The foundation donated nearly 20,000 books to at-risk kids across New Jersey in the span of one week for Dr. Seuss’ Birthday
Red Bank, NJ – March 2, 2012
This year The Bridge of Books Foundation (“BoB”) commemorated Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America by donating nearly 20,000 books to at-risk children throughout New Jersey. Bob also carried on a yearly tradition of recruiting over 40 volunteers to read to students in the pre-k through 4th grades in the Keansburg School District and, new this year, in six Head Start Centers across Monmouth County.
The National Education Association’s Read Across America campaign targets March 2 – Dr. Seuss’ birthday – as a jumping off point for two weeks of literacy events and awareness. While the aim of Read Across America is to inspire all of us to read, read, read; it takes more than Green Eggs and Ham to get everyone reading. In order to read, children need to have ongoing access to books. In today’s economy and with the number of children living in poverty on the rise, there are many underserved children throughout New Jersey who have no such access and, consequently, are falling behind in developing appropriate grade level reading skills. This is where the Bridge of Books Foundation comes in. Operating as an all-volunteer non-profit organization in New Jersey since 2003, BoB has donated over a quarter of a million books to more than 100 agencies across New Jersey serving at-risk children. Adding in the donations made over the past week, this number is now closer to 300,000. Whether at home or at school, the Bridge of Books Foundation is there to help our children experience the benefits of literacy.
BoB has been organizing volunteer readers for Keansburg students for the past four years. Many of these volunteers return again each year to spend a morning reading with the students. Diana Coleman Grover, Navesink, returned for her third year. When asked about her experience, she stated “It’s something I look forward to every year! The children were so excited during the readings…you could literally see their eyes widen and brighten! Knowing their imaginations were at work while you lifted the words off the pages just shows the importance of making sure every child has the opportunity to enjoy books! An amazing experience once again!” Each student in the pre-k through 4th grades will have the opportunity to select 2-3 books to take home.
This year, BoB expanded its efforts to recruit volunteer readers for six Acelero Head Start Centers in Monmouth County. BoB arranged for volunteers to read to nearly 500 pre-k students in Keyport, Neptune, Howell, Red Bank, Asbury and Freehold. In addition to providing each student with two books, BoB was also thrilled to be able to purchase enough copies of It’s a Little Book by Lane Smith to send one home with each student. Bob was able to make thus purchase because of a grant from The Charles Lafitte Foundation, created by Jeffrey and Suzanne Citron in 1999 to support innovative and effective ways of helping people help themselves. Kyra Citron, an 8th grade student at The Ranney School, was actually on hand at the Freehold Head Start. Along with her parents and eight classmates, she spent an afternoon reading stories to the children and giving them books to take home Kyra, who is an avid reader and fan of BoB’s mission was delighted to be part of this year’s Dr. Seuss celebration organized by Bridge of Books. Of the afternoon, she said “Books have gotten me through happy times and sad times. No matter what is going on in my life, books have always been one of my best friends. Every child should be able to read and every child deserves to know the joy and adventure of a good story!”
Of the nearly 20,000 books that were donated to at-risk children across New Jersey, 14,000 came as an overstock donation from North South Publishing at the initiation of Heather Lennon, the Company’s Director of Publishing. Ms. Lennon, who has been a fan of BoB’s mission, said “NorthSouth Books, an independent publisher of Children’s picture books based in New York, NY is delighted to support Bridge of Books. Their work is truly inspirational! NorthSouth Books is very proud to share some of their bestselling titles featuring the Rainbow Fish and the Little Polar Bear with underprivileged and at-risk children in New Jersey.” These 14,000 books arrived at BoB’s storage unit on a Tuesday and were completely distributed to by the following Thursday – a mere nine days later. As a direct result of the generosity of NorthSouth, BoB was able to coordinate the opportunity for 14,000 pre-school age children in seven separate counties to go home with a new book in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday this year.
Regarding BoB’s efforts this year in connection Dr. Seuss’ Birthday, Ms. Daly commented “As always, it is a great time of year and we are thrilled to have so many new and returning volunteer readers and to get so many books into the hands of so many kids in such a short period of time. Nine years later, I am still amazed at the level of need for children’s books in New Jersey such that we could turn around 14,000 books in nine days. What this says to me is that our mission remains vital and that children need access to books 365 days a year.”
Rumson, NJ, January 24, 2012 – A special screening of Rio, the animated film, will be held at Clearview Cinemas in Red Bank on Saturday, February 25th to benefit children in need. Hosted by Bridge of Books, a non-profit organization that brings books to children who otherwise could not afford them or do not have access to them, this special event promises to be a good time for the entire family.
The fun-filled event will include free face painting, tattoos and goody bags, plus a ticket auction. The morning will culminate with a special screening of the Rio which tells the story of Blu, a domesticated blue macaw who is taken to Rio de Janeiro and falls in love with Jewel, a free-spirited macaw, and together they have to escape from being smuggled by Nigel, a mean cockatoo. Festivities begin at 9:15 a.m. and donations of new and gently used children’s books are welcome at the event.
Date: Saturday, February 25
Time: Doors open at 9:15 a.m. Film begins at 10 a.m.
Place: Clearview Cinemas, White Street in Red Bank
Advanced sales: $12.50 each OR 5 for $50 (every 5th ticket free)
At the door: $15.00 each OR 5 for $60 (every 5th ticket free)
Tickets are available only in advance: 1) at River Road Books in Fair Haven (759 River Road, Fair Haven); 2) by sending a check to “Bridge of Books” along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 39, Rumson, NJ 07760; or 3) at www.bridgeofbooksfoundation.org.
The Bridge of Books Foundation was established in 2003 in New Jersey and is devoted to providing books to underprivileged and at-risk children, to support literacy and encourage a love of reading. The organization’s name is derived from the belief that a book, like a bridge, captures children’s imaginations, taking them to new places, and through literacy, to new heights.
According to Abigail Daly, Founder and Executive Director, “I incorporated the New Jersey chapter of Bridge of Books after the original San Francisio-based home office closed.” Ms. Daly, an attorney, had previously represented children and adults who were involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals, as well as advocating for children within the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services system. She later left the practice of law to be at home with her children. “Bridge of Books provided a perfect vehicle for me to remain involved with at-risk children while pursuing my love of reading and teaching my children about giving back to the community.”
Many low-income families struggle with difficult choices, balancing the costs of healthcare, food and rent. Children’s books, and the enrichment they provide, are often considered an unaffordable luxury. Yet, according to Abigail, “The literacy skills garnered from exposure to books is vital to a child’s future success and economic stability.”
Bridge of Books was originally founded in 2000 in San Francisco, and later incorporated as a registered 501c3 public charity in Rumson, New Jersey. Bridge of Books, distributes books through an extensive network of more than 100 New Jersey agencies and organizations serving at-risk and underprivileged children like the New Jersey Youth Corps and New Jersey Reading Coaches. It is run on a volunteer basis and has distributed more than 260,000 books throughout the state and benefited thousands of children.
Bridge of Books Foundation
P.O. Box 39
Rumson, NJ 07760
Tasia Hammond, a ninth grader at the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, is a voracious reader. Her favorite is manga, Japanese adventure comics. She wants to be an animator when she graduates college.
Books have always been important to Tasia, the youngest of three. Her parents, both teachers, taught her to read when she was still a toddler and encouraged her get a library card when she was nine. But the first books the 14-year-old remembers actually owning came from Bridge of Books Foundation.
Tasia spotted a table of books on an after school visit to the Jersey Explorer Children’s Museum, across the street from her elementary school in East Orange.
“I said ‘are these books free?’” she laughed incredulously. “I took like seven books!”
The outgoing teenager returned almost every week, often bringing friends. She knocked on the door when it was closed. She had to explain to her mother how she acquired so many new volumes.
“She was like the Pied Piper of books,” Gary Patnosh, the energetic and teacherly co-director of the museum, said with evident pride.
Housed in a former library, the museum is designed and run by the NJ Youth Corps, a government-funded program that coaches at-risk people ages 16 to 25 to perform service projects. The NJ Youth Corps also helps with job training and education, among other things.
Visitors to the museum are funneled through a warren of rooms cleverly outfitted with actors, and period details to recreate an emotional moment from history. One is a church basement in Birmingham, Alabama during the civil rights struggle, which, visitors are told, is subsequently bombed. One is a hideout on the underground railway made pricklingly real with farming implements, actors dressed as runaway slaves and the yowls of tracking dogs in the distance.
The museum is also used as a venue for neighborhood events like First Friday, a monthly gathering for preteens.
Mr. Patnosh has received thousands of books from Bridge of Books over the past eight years. He displays them in the museum lobbies and encourages children to take them as they leave.
In return, volunteers from NJ Youth Corps help BoB by distributing books to community groups throughout the state.
On one recent visit to the museum, Isaiah Moore, a bespectacled 12-year-old, seemed paralyzed by choice. He finally settled on a Star Wars novel, examining it minutely, then began to read it, still standing in the hallway.
“The books from here serve so many children throughout the community,” said East Orange Councilwoman Andrea McPhatter. “They really depend on them. When I tell you how far-reaching your efforts are, you’d really be surprised.”
Tasia explained what the program means to her:
“There are a lot of children whose parents can’t afford to get a book,” she said. “They are really missing out. Books to me are like a chance for a kid to go on an adventure. You just go to faraway places. But it’s not only imagination. It is knowledge.”
This article was written by Kirsty Sucato, a freelance writer and BoB volunteer. Photos are courtesy of Mary Ann Rounseville.
Patty received this letter from the NJ Governor’s office congratulating her on being nominated for the NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award! Don’t forget to vote for us and help us win the $100,000 prize.
If she wins, we will use this money to get many more books into the hands of New Jersey’s at-risk children and help foster the love of reading across the state!
Vote here http://www.nascar.com/award
(You can vote every 24 hours per email address.)