My name is James MacAulay, and I’m 13 years old. Recently, I donated about 800 books to the Bridge of Books Foundation for my Bar Mitzvah project. When I dropped the books off, I was shown pictures of smiling kids. Kids that were so happy to get a book. I was told that this is what people like me created every time they gave a book to this foundation.
Books mean a lot to me. In fact, I want to become an author when I grow up. Books can take you on all different kinds of adventures.
At one point, my mom showed me pictures of kids that had gotten my books. I remember seeing a little girl’s face lit with delight holding a Dr. Seuss book that I had donated.
I loved collecting these books knowing they would go to somebody who needed them. It warmed me inside to see so many happy receivers. I hope that anyone who has the chance to donate books to the Bridge of Books Foundation will do it immediately.
Original article source from www.nj.gov ( http://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/552014/approved/20140702c.html)
Trenton, NJ - First Lady Mary Pat Christie today honored Abby Daly, founder and executive director of the non-profit Bridge of Books Foundation as her 4th New Jersey Hero of 2014. Ms. Daly and her all-volunteer group are responsible for putting more than 425,000 books into the hands of at-risk children across the Garden State in an effort to support literacy skills and encourage a love of reading.
“Books are powerful tools that open doors to learning, expand our imagination and help to understand the world around us,””said First Lady Mary Pat Christie. “Since 2003, Abby Daly has been working to ensure that all children throughout New Jersey have this same opportunity through her Bridge of Books Foundation. I’m amazed by the thousands of students she has been able to impact by changing their lives through reading books. I am proud to name Abby Daly as our 28th New Jersey Hero.””
Ms. Daly was inspired to help underserved children through her professional experience as a lawyer in Office of the Attorney General, where she worked with the Division of Youth and Family Services. A graduate of Smith College and Dickinson School of Law, Ms. Daly left the practice of law in 2001 to be at home with her two children. Through Bridge of Books New Jersey, she found the perfect vehicle to remain involved with at-risk children, pursue a love of reading and expose her children to the concept of giving back to the community.
“Our success over the last 11 years is a measure of the tremendous amount of support that we receive from the community at large,” said Abby Daly. “Books have the power to change lives. The over 425,000 books we’ve distributed have touched only a fraction of the children in the state who need books to call their own. This award is great honor and, with greater visibility, we will hopefully inspire more communities to join us in making sure that all children in New Jersey have plenty of books to call their own.””
Bridge of Books collects donations from all over the Garden State. Once the books are received, volunteers review them to make sure they are in good condition and then sort the books by age. Thousands of books are then matched with agency requests from around the state. Recently, over 7,500 books went to schools/agencies in three different New Jersey counties over the course of 9 days.
More importantly, any New Jersey agency or institution that provides services to underprivileged or at-risk children can receive books. The distribution network is more than 100 agencies strong. Recipients include: schools, after-school programs, shelters, community fairs, food banks and both juvenile/adult detention facilities. Many agencies receive between one and four donations per year.
A large part of the statewide reach of Bridge to Books is due to its ongoing partnership with New Jersey Youth Corps. Each of the eleven Youth Corps groups distribute the books to areas in their respective communities where books are needed most. In fact, the Jersey Explorer Children’s Museum and its Youth Corps have been distributing Bridge of Books donations in northern New Jersey counties for 11 years.
In addition, Bridge of Books provides Spanish and Bi-lingual books to agencies and organizations throughout the state as requested.
More information about Bridge to Books can be found at http://www.bridgeofbooksfoundation.org/
To learn more about donating books, visit http://www.bridgeofbooksfoundation.org/what-we-do/got-books/
New Jersey Heroes is an initiative of First Lady Mary Pat Christie that showcases the positive and unique ways people and organizations are impacting New Jersey and their communities. To nominate a hero, go to newjerseyheroes.org and follow the application instructions to submit the person you believe is a true New Jersey Hero.
Photo Caption 1: First Lady Mary Pat Christie and New Jersey Youth Corp volunteers honor Abby Daly, founder and executive director of the Bridge of Books Foundation at a ceremony held at the Jersey Explorer Children’s Museum in East Orange.
Photo Caption 2:First Lady Mary Pat Christie with New Jersey Hero Abby Daily and children attending the Jersey Explorer Children’s Museum Book Fair in East Orange.
Shrewsbury, NJ (April 28, 2014)- The Bridge of Books Foundation (BoB) announced today that it has embarked on the next chapter of its mission to provide an ongoing source of books to underprivileged and at-risk children throughout New Jersey, by creating a long range plan and establishing office space in Tinton Falls, New Jersey.
“We’re so excited to begin this new process of growth,” said Founder and Executive Director Abby Daly. “There’s no question that there is an overwhelming need for the work we do. The over 400,000 books we’ve distributed have touched only a fraction of the children in the State who need books to call their own. We know that reading allows students to find out more about the larger world around them, while improving their literacy skills and opening their minds to new ideas. With our new office space and the help of Holly Lyttle and HFL & Associates, who are facilitating the development of our strategic plan, we know that this organization can do even more to help the children of New Jersey. There’s no stopping Bridge of Books now! “
HFL & Associates is a non-profit consulting and training company, specializing in Board training and development, strategic planning and fundraising. HFL will perform an organizational analysis of Bridge of Books, create a plan to help BoB reach its objective growth and will help to implement that plan over the next three years.
BoB’s new office space is located in the Shrewsbury Executive Offices, at 788 Shrewsbury Avenue, just south of Sycamore Avenue in Tinton Falls. Bridge of Books Foundation is still in search of combined storage and office space in the Red Bank area, which ideally has ground floor access and at least 1,000 square feet of storage space and 300 square feet of office space. “We’re in great hopes that a local individual or business will see the importance of the work we do and help us to continue to grow,” said Daly. Without physical space for storage, we’re limited in the number of books we can distribute. There are too many children in this State who need our help.”
Bridge of Books Foundation’s latest programs have included TEENS TALK BOOKS, which was designed to reach teens through writing contests held at high schools across the state. The goal of the program was to encourage recreational reading and to gather data on how teens view reading and to find out what books interest them. The program was first launched in 2012 in the Newark Public Schools and was followed-up with similar programs in Keansburg High School and Lakewood High School. “Again and again we heard from the students that only a fraction considered their home the best place to find a book, leading us to believe that we need to get more books into these children’s homes, said Daly. “And that’s what the Bridge of Books Foundation is all about.” TEENS TALK BOOKS was made possible through the generous support of the Charles Lafitte Foundation (CLF) (Brielle) and the Charles Edison Fund (Newark). Both are active annual donors to Bridge of Books.
Founded in 2003, the mission of the Bridge of Books Foundation 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. To date, over 400,000 books have been donated to children across the state.
Bridge of Books named a beneficiary of Barnabas Health Family Festival and Kids Races during NJ Marathon Weekend – April 26th
(Red Bank, April 2014) — Barnabas Health, New Jersey’s largest hospital and health care system, will hold a Family Festival and Kids Races on Saturday, April 26 from 9 a.m. – noon at the Great Lawn at the Ocean Promenade in Long Branch as part of the Annual Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon race weekend. Registration begins on-site at 8:30 a.m.
The fun-filled day of activities will feature kids races, clowns, face painting, carnival games, a bounce house, crafts, Zumba for kids, balloon artists, spin art, entertainment by Mr. Scott the Music Man, The Fun Bus, prizes, refreshments and more. Kids will also have the opportunity to decorate boards to cheer on runners in Sunday’s marathon. The Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center will also host a teddy bear and doll clinic. Children are encouraged to bring their own stuffed animals and dolls to be evaluated by nurses of the Unterberg Children’s Hospital.
Kids Races start at 9 a.m. and include:
• The Toddler Dash for ages 2 to 4
• Kids Fun Race for ages 5 to 8
• Half-Mile Mini-Marathon for ages 9 to 12, with race ending at the official New Jersey Marathon finish line
• “Kids” 1.2 Mile Marathon, for “kids” ages 8 to 99, with prizes
All races are free with an optional donation to on-site local charities including The Valerie Fund Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at the Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center, Family Promise, The Bridge of Books Foundation, and the Central Jersey Brain Tumor Association. The cost to participate in the Mini Marathon is $15, which will be entirely donated to Bridge of Books for all registrations done through Bridge of Books.
The New Jersey Marathon is a three-day celebration of health and wellness held April 25-27. The signature races are held Sunday, April 27. The weekend includes the New Jersey Health & Fitness Expo, the NJ Marathon and Half Marathon, the Shaping NJ 5K, and other family friendly events. For more information, visit www.njmarathon.org.
Founded in 2003, the mission of the Bridge of Books Foundation 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. To date, over 400,000 books have been donated to children across the state.
To ensure that your registration fee goes directly to Bridge of Books, please DOWNLOAD THE REGISTRATION FORM HERE and mail the completed form back to us along with your check.
Questions? Contact Abby Daly, at 732-291-4755 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Miss New Jersey 2013, Cara McCollum, will join The Bridge of Books Foundation and over 30 volunteers to kick off Read Across America and to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday by reading to children in the Keansburg School District.
“Bridge of Books is doing wonderful things throughout the state of New Jersey and I’m honored to be a part of that,” said Miss New Jersey. “Books open a child’s mind to the whole wide world and the opportunities that await them, which is especially important for underprivileged children who might not otherwise be aware of their own potential.”
Bridge of Books and its volunteers read to students in the pre-k through 4th grades in the Keansburg School District each year as part of Read Across America, the National Education Association’s campaign for two weeks of literacy events and awareness. Read Across America begins with the celebration of the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Bridge of Books also makes sure that the students go home with a book or two.
The Bridge of Books mission, however, is to help the entire state of New Jersey. The all-volunteer Foundation has facilitated the distribution of more than 400,000 books both directly to at-risk children and to the agencies that serve them throughout the state. It supports the development of literacy skills by increasing the number of age-appropriate books available to New Jersey’s under-privileged and at-risk children.
“We are thrilled to have so many new readers like Miss New Jersey and returning volunteer readers and to get so many books into the hands of so many kids in such a short period of time. However, our mission is vital and it doesn’t just happen today. Children need access to books 365 days a year,” said Abigail Daly, Director of The Bridge of Books Foundation.
Bridge of Books is a non-profit 501(c)(3), all-volunteer organization. Their 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. Good books should never be read just once and Bridge of Books wants to ensure that children have ongoing access to books.
Quoting Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” Miss New Jersey said “’they’ve got brains in their head and feet in their shoes, they can steer themselves any direction they choose.’ I’m a firm believer that if you add a book in the hands of a child to that equation, the possibilities truly are limitless.”
Bridge of Books generally acquires books through book drives and individual donations. Occasionally, they receive overstock books from a publisher or corporate donor. Ms. Daly also said that Bridge of Books will purchase books based on specific requests. For example, a teacher may want to focus on a particular novel with her class or an agency may need books that appeal to teenage boys. She said the Foundation also purchases Spanish and bi-lingual books because they recognize the unique challenges facing children for whom English is a second language.
“Help us write the next chapter in the Bridge of Books,” said Ms. Daly as she explained that the growing Foundation needs help with operating expenses. “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 books of their own and, consequently, are falling behind in developing appropriate grade level reading skills. Bridge of Books wants to help.”
854 Lakewood High School Students Take Part in Reading Contest
Red Bank, NJ (February 3, 2014)- The Bridge of Books Foundation (BoB) announced the results of a partnership with the Lakewood Public School District, The Charles Lafitte Foundation and the Charles Edison Fund to expand a Statewide program to encourage High Schoolers to think about the impact that reading has on their lives and on their future. An overwhelming number of students took part in the program, which garnered intriguing and eye-opening results.
The program, entitled TEENS TALK BOOKS, was designed to reach teens through writing contests held at high schools across the state. The goal of the program was to encourage recreational reading and to gather data on how teens view reading and to find out what books interest them. The program was first launched in 2012 in the Newark Public Schools with the “Are You Hungry for Books?” contest, in which 200 students took part, and was followed-up with a Winter 2013 contest at Keansburg High School, where 174 students took part.
The Lakewood High School TEENS TALK BOOKS program took place on November 25, 26 and 27, 2013. Over 70% (854) of the over 1,200 Lakewood High students filled out an on-line survey asking them questions on how they felt about books and why reading is important. Each student who filled out a survey was awarded a new book, and entered in a contest to win another new book of their choice. Entries were judged by educators from around the state, including representatives from Teach for America and River Road Books in Fair Haven. Twenty winners were announced on February 3.
“The judging was both joyful and heart-wrenching,” said Bridge of Books Founder and Executive Director Abby Daly. “There were so many interesting and thoughtful responses from the students. Several students admitted to struggling with reading, but over 80% of all the students responded that knowing how to read well is important, and they want to improve. Hearing that was so gratifying to the educators involved with this project,” said Daly. “We know that reading allows students to find out more about the larger world around them, while improving their literacy skills and opening their minds to new ideas.”
One freshman student wrote: “A book…makes you see things in a different way. That’s why reading is so important to me. It makes me feel like I can do anything in the world.” A 10th garde student asked for a dictionary “because I would like to learn new words to expand my vocabulary and learn new words so I can use wiser words.”
Lakewood High School English Teacher Kevin Walters expressed his gratitude and excitement about the program. “Any time we can generate interest in reading is an opportunity we should seize. All of our teachers are amazed at the level of student participation in this program and we’re so pleased and proud of the results.”
“As in the Newark and Keansburg programs, what we found in Lakewood has been fascinating and heartening,” said Daly of the TEENS TALK BOOKS contests. “Again we heard from the students that only 5% considered their home the best place to find a book, leading us to believe that we need to get more books into these children’s homes. And that’s what the Bridge of Books Foundation is all about.”
TEENS TALK BOOKS is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Lafitte Foundation (CLF) (Brielle) and the Charles Edison Fund (Newark). Both are active annual donors to Bridge of Books. CLF supports innovative and effective ways of helping people help themselves and others around them to achieve healthy, satisfying and enriched lives. The Charles Edison Fund is dedicated to the support of worthwhile endeavors in education and specifically provides seed money to projects that would not otherwise get off the ground.
On November 25, 26 and 27th, the Bridge of Books Foundation asked Lakewood High School students for their opinions on reading and its impact on their lives. We offered the 3rd round of our TEENS TALK BOOKS survey to all 1200 students. Everyone who completed a survey will receive a free book of their choice from a list of 8 young adult books covering a wide range of subjects – from Crank by Ellen Hopkins to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline to A Rose that Grew in Concrete by Tupac Shakur. Since it was only our 3rd round, we really had no idea what kind of numbers to expect.
I am happy to share that over three-fourths of the entire Lakewood High School student body completed the survey – 853 students in all!
We are now in the process of reading every single survey. We will select 15-20 “winners.” These students, whose answers inspire us, will receive the additional book that they identified as wanting in the survey. Our plan is to go to Lakewood at end of January to deliver ALL of these books! Of course, we will share the winning books and all the statistics as well.
In the meantime, I am happy to share the insights and perspectives of the Lakewood High School English teacher who made this happen at his School. Kevin and I have been working together for a few years now at various points to get books into the hands of his students.
Happy Holidays! ~Abby Daly, Executive Director, Bridge of Books Foundation
Wait. This doesn’t make any sense.
Those were my first thoughts when Abby proposed to me her idea for this year’s Lakewood High School / Bridge of Books team-up. See, we had done some amazing stuff in the past – World Book Night, free boxes of books for every English teacher’s classroom. But this? This idea she had about giving every single student in the high school a book of his or her choice? Like I said, it didn’t make any sense. I mean it’s borderline crazy-talk. But hold on, Abby helped me make sense of it all. Really. All of it. She’s good like that.
She explained that every student would have to fill out a brief survey about their relationship with books and reading and why they read or why they don’t read and whether or not there are books in their home. I asked why and she explained – straight from her heart – that she cares deeply about these kids and the role reading plays in their lives. She knows that a true education can only take place when students understand what they’re reading AND love what they’re reading. A book that entertains its reader doesn’t necessarily preclude the educational value it holds. Starting to get it?
She then explained that students could pick from a selection of books – a very wide-ranging selection of books in my opinion – to keep! They could pick a book of poetry by Mr. Tupac Shakur or that deep, dark novel by Jay Asher titled, Thirteen Reasons Why. Or hey, how about a comic book about space pirates? Yeah, it’s all there. Plus five more! Because, and this is important to remember kids, reading is fun. Come on, you know at one point in history that was true. Reading. Is. Fun. It’s easy to forget that as an educator sometimes, you know. We read critically and analyze every word and figurative language device and point-of-view and adverb clause because that stuff is important. It is, I swear. But you know what else is important? Space pirates. Are you starting to get it yet?
Oh, and Abby wasn’t done. Fifteen students from the high school would be able to earn the privilege, she said, to choose a second book of their preference. They had to write about any book they wanted and why they’d read it if they had the chance. Abby would choose the fifteen best responses and purchase a copy of that second book for those students. Even more awesomeness.
So, then it was time to tell the kids.
Posters went up in the hallways. “Want to own this book?” they asked, “Just take a brief survey in your English class and Bridge of Books will give you a copy to take home!” “Bridge of Books wants to know what you think about reading!” they declared.
And we announced the survey in the English classes. We talked about the books. We summarized the plots and read excerpts from Tupac and Asher and displayed artwork from the Serenity graphic novel. We sold the books to the students. And they bought in – eagerly. I heard students creating classroom libraries all on their own. “I’ll get this one and you get that one and then we’ll switch when we’re done.” Big plans. And I have no doubt they’ll follow through, because they were excited! About reading! I think you get it now.
It’s all about that excitement, you see. All of this is to help kids find that love for books again. All of it. To find that magic that may or may not sometimes get lost in the classroom. It’s about getting students excited to read!
And I’m pretty sure we’ve done it. The Bridge of Books survey absolutely generated a special kind of excitement around the high school. And while it may not have made sense to me in the beginning – I mean really, what kind of crazy person just gives away hundreds of books? – it all makes perfect sense now.
“Hey Walters! When are we getting those books? I HAVE to read that one about those space pirates!” See? Makes perfect sense.
Kevin A Walters
English Language Arts Teacher
Lakewood High School, NJ
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.