I sat down with Gayle Baigelman last week, a former film executive and mother of a teenage girl, who has managed to turn a lifetime love of reading into a satisfying day job. How did she do that? She works as the Associate Director of BookEnds, an innovative non-profit that ‘creates readers and leaders.’ The organization, which was started by local mom Robin M. Keefe, solves a problems that many of us have – what to do with books that we’ve purchased for our kids, that our kids have read, and that now sit unused on a shelf or in a box. We really love the story of how Robin had the brainstorm to start BookEnds, which you can read here.
I was knocked out by the many ways in which BookEnds has taken a problem (books that are lying fallow in our homes) and put them to work, both for the children who donate them and the kids who receive them. The BookEnds team identifies ‘donor schools’ around the city and works within that school’s curriculum to organize book drives. Once the children have created their own book drive and sorted through each book, the team organizes a day where the donor school kids visit the recipient school to deliver the books. The recipient schools, which the organization has identified as committed to literacy and able to house and care for their new library, host the donor kids for an event that celebrates the arrival of the books (think cheer-leading squad or mariachi band!) and the kids spend time together reading. Then, BookEnds goes back to the donor schools to complete the process with a wrap-up session.
The goal of the organization is for us all to think of recycling books the way we (now) naturally recycle water bottles. Research has proved that children who are given more choice and access to books are more likely to be active readers, and BookEnds is proud to have brought over 2 1/2 MILLION books to under served communities in their ten years of existence. This translates to about 70 book drives each year. And here’s the real kicker – this is just a drop in the bucket of the literacy problems we face as a city. LA needs 7 Million books to come up to the National Average of books per student.
Inspired, I took two carloads of books from my house and from the houses of friends, secure in the knowledge that this clever organization will place them in the hands of young readers who will put them to a new use. You can contact BookEnds if your school would like participate in this project (which is ideal for a 4th grade service learning project), or you can make donations (as I did) directly to BookEnds.