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Donate a book, save a future. That’s the hope and mission of Access Books, a non-profit volunteer program that helps improve libraries in inner-city schools in the Los Angeles area.
Despite its reputation as one of the most progressive states in the country, California is dead last nationally in school library funding. In fact, some inner-city schools in California have more students than suitable library books.
After conducting her own survey focusing on the disparity in access to books between affluent and low-income children, L.A. resident Rebecca Constantino founded Access Books in 1999 and began delivering books to local schools out of the trunk of her car.
Since its beginnings, Access Books has worked with more than 95 schools (with 45 on the waiting list), and donated over one million books and refurbished a number of libraries. They have also received recognition from a number of community, local and state organizations, and corporations such as Starbucks and celebrities like Oprah Winfrey.
“Our program is needed more than ever,” said Constantino, Ph.D, founder and executive director of Access Books. “I really don’t think people realize so little money is devoted to libraries in California.”
Another beneficial aspect of the Access Books program is that it enables children from affluent communities to reach out to other less fortunate communities through their book donations and involvement in helping refurbish school libraries.
“They get a chance to meet children who may seem a world apart, but they discover how much they have in common,” explains Constantino. “They also get to see how small acts like donating a book or painting a library or mural can transform lives in a simple, but powerful way.”
The response from the schools Access Books has visited has been overwhelming positive.
“It’s like a dream for the children to walk into the newly refurbished library and browse through the amazing selection of books,” said Carol Ward, principal, St. Michael Elementary School in Los Angeles. “Unfortunately, it’s true that many of our students’ homes are lacking in reading material. So you can imagine the delight of the students when they can handle new books and decide which ones to read.”
For more information about Access Books, please visit www.accessbooks.net or call (310) 204-6350.