Rebecca Constantino was shocked to see that schools in Los Angeles had libraries with barren shelves, where most of the students had never owned a book—while across town—wealthy schools were trying to give away thousands of extra books.
Rebecca created Access Books—a program to breathe new life into barren school libraries with donated books and a fresh coat of paint—and is bringing children of diverse communities closer together.
Putting Books in the Hands of Every Child
Access Books works with schools that have at least 90% of their student population at or below the poverty level. When Rebecca discovered that there were students who had never held a hardback book in their life, she knew she wanted to be part of a solution.
"The solution is very easy," says Rebecca. "You take books that children have read and you distribute them to children who need them. You learn to read by reading. And these books are the basis for children becoming academically successful, but more importantly, life-long readers."
A Partnership Between Two Schools
The premise of distributing books is creating a partnership between schools in the community. The school with excess books holds a book drive and asks children to donate their favorite books they've read. Inside the book they donate, they write a note... 'I liked this book because...' Rebecca says, "It gives children the opportunity to give, and children rarely get the opportunity to give."
Together, the children from the partnered schools paint the new library with colorful murals. "The communities are a few miles away, but worlds apart in terms of opportunities that they have," says Rebecca. "These children spend the day together painting and they find that although they're from very diverse communities, they're very similar."
"I grew up in a house where there wasn't a lot of money and reading for me was my escape and refuge," Rebecca says. "But many of these children live in a neighborhood where there's nothing. And if a book can take them away and they can escape, that makes me happy."
A Special Gift: Brand New Books
Harper Collins Publishers donated 5,000 hardcover books. And Penguin Classics donated an assortment of 2,000 classics.
How to Donate Children's Books
It takes 10,000 books to start a library and Access Books has 70 libraries on their waiting list. To donate recently purchased children's books, send your box to:
75th Street School
142 W. 75th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90003
Books for the Homeless
Access Books will be working with "Schools on Wheels" to set up libraries in six homeless shelters in East Central Los Angeles by January 2002. They expect to complete two after Thanksgiving. From the show Conscious Spending.