BookSmiles Returns to NJEA Convention

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Those of us who teach in very poor districts usually have students whose reading levels are well below grade level. I started a non-profit organization that can help solve this problem.

Since 2017, BookSmiles has distributed nearly one million new and gently used books to children in need across New Jersey and Philadelphia. These are students who lack money for book trade fairs who visit their schools.

How do we keep our Cherry Hill warehouse stocked with books to donate? By diverting them from thrift stores in supermarkets and inspiring legions of bibliophiles to organize book drives. Sometimes people use our hand painted designer collection bins. We roughly level the books, keeping only the top quality books, because every child deserves a top quality library, not yellowed and torn books. Ownership of children’s books should not be dictated by zip code.

I began my teaching career in Moorestown and ended it in Lindenwold, towns at opposite ends of New Jersey’s socio-economic spectrum. Several years ago, I started thinking seriously about fairness. What could I do as a teacher to bring all my students to the reading level or above? And it struck me: flooding my neighborhood with children’s books. I started obsessively collecting books in my garage and handing them out to children and babies. I gave my idea a name: BookSmiles. Then I created a website and applied for non-profit status.

Presenting at two NJEA conventions was powerful and helped a lot to promote our brand. Teachers and educational support professionals across the state have seen how a nominal donation can give them several hundred dollars worth of quality books. Nearly 1,000 NJEA members have either visited the BookSmiles Book Bank or distributed our books through our book fairs. Please visit our website, booksmiles.orgto help spread the richness of the book.

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