A program that gives away free books to school children has touched down on the West Coast, and one of Richmond’s schools was the first to host the event Wednesday night.
Through the Newark-based program, My Very Own Library, more than 2,000 books were available for all students at Making Waves, a charter middle and high school that’s made up of students who are almost all low-income and qualify for free lunch.
Every student received a certificate earlier in the day, which allowed them to choose three books from any of the hundreds of different titles available to them. Classics like Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid were in abundance on the shelves. Scholastic provided the brand new books for the event at a discounted price to the program.
Shannon Boehmer, Director of Communications for the project partner New Jersey After 3, said that by allowing the students to choose their own books, there’s a greater chance that they’ll read them.
“If they find the books that they love, then they discover the love of reading,” Boehmer said to a library packed with hundreds of parents and students.
Instilling the love of reading was promised again and again that night. The principal asked a brief question with a telling answer from the audience. What do people think of when they hear Richmond? “Gun shots,” said several people in the audience.
Rosa Delgado has two children at the school and said that the event was a break from the stresses that normally surround the community.
“People are actually interacting and having a good time and not worried about violence,” Delgado said.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin attended the event and gave the school a proclamation from the city, proclaiming April 24 as Literacy Day and honoring Making Waves for “raising generations of literate Richmond citizens.”
“Literacy really is important,” said McLaughlin after she shared a story of her mother, who only had two years of high school education, consistently reading to her as a child. “And it really is a family affair.”
Upstairs in the classrooms, the school offered 15 different literacy-centered activities, like making bookmarks and journals that the students could take home.
My Very Own Library was started by book author Anne Feeley in 2011 for Newark public schools. The program initially combined money from Feeley herself and from donations from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerburg. Feeley passed away in the fall of 2012 after a seven-year diagnosis of brain cancer. The program continues to be entirely funded by Feeley’s family.
So far, the program has given away more than 120,000 books to 20 schools in New Jersey. Making Waves is the first school outside of the state to partner in the program.