Over 5,000 books have found a new home in district schools thanks to the nonprofit group BookSmiles.
The group, founded by Lindenwold High School English teacher Larry Abrams last year, collects, sorts, and creatively distributes gently used books to underserved children in New Jersey, giving them the opportunity to build personal libraries. Their mission is for each child to have a personal library of at least 100 books, with a special focus on developing literacy skills at infancy so children can read before kindergarten.
“Book rich districts are now giving their books to book deserts,” Abrams said. “There are a lot of kids in Vineland that are great readers, but we want every single child to have a personal library of about a hundred books.”
Representatives from BookSmiles, including Abrams and former district elementary school teacher Jane Arochas, visited several schools on June 19 to distribute the books. Ranging from preschool to middle school reading levels, the books covered a wide variety of topics and genres. The books were then distributed as the schools saw fit.
With a year under their belts, the group has already had a significant impact, collecting over 60,000 new and gently-used books and redistributing them throughout New Jersey. They hope that with their ever-increasing network of teachers and community members, they can do even more.
“The formula is so simple,” Abrams said. “The backbone of BookSmiles is teachers. We, as teachers, really can do more. We can look into our own communities when we go home and put out calls to our friends and families or share on social media.”
Now that Vineland is part of BookSmiles’ network, the group hopes that the community can help the program spread throughout the region.
“Next year we really want to saturate South Jersey,” Abrams said. “We need several communities in South Jersey that are really good at collecting to help distribute to book deserts. We want all schools to collect on their own and recirculate them back into the community. We want to activate more teachers into the network and have them lead the charge to make this happen.”
For more information, please visit www.booksmiles.org
Click the following link for photos from the Wallace Intermediate School drop-off: