Spreading Literacy in the Land of the Liberty Bell

What do you get when you combine Hanna Montana: Truth of Dare, Ella Enchanted: True Love’s Kiss, Bess the Book Bus, Miss New Jersey, a stellar Advisory Board, and Philadelphia Public Schools?  First Book’s most recent Book Distribution in the land of the Liberty Bell: Philadelphia!

Members of First Book-Philadelphia, First Book staff, volunteers, and Miss New Jersey at the Philadelphia Book Distribution.

Since I started at First Book, I have been continually intrigued by the Book Bank.  As our clearinghouse for publishers and a   resource for free books, the Book Bank is able to cater to programs that, without this resource, would have limited or no access to educational materials for the children they serve.  And while I know the ins and outs of the Book Bank, until a few weeks ago, I had never experienced a Book Distribution on the ground. Which is why on Wednesday morning I woke up with books to kids on my brain and ready to see over 85,000 books distributed through the First Book National Book Bank.

After throwing on our First Book t-shirts, Stephanie, Rachael, Tara and I, set off to the Philadelphia Public Schools warehouse, where amidst rows of children’s desks, composition books and pencils were thousands of boxes of books, from Hanna Montana: Don’t Bet on It to Witch’s Amulet, donated by our partners at Disney Publishing Worldwide.  With extra hands from the Philadelphia Advisory Board, we labeled boxes to ship and prepared orders for programs to pick up.  Mid-way through the day we even got a quick visit from a great friend of First Book, Bess the Book Bus, as she headed up the east coast to spread reading and literacy to the children of Maine.

After a day of hard work at the warehouse, we had the privilege of learning more about First Book – Philadelphia over dinner. Out of our 190 Advisory Boards throughout the country, First Book – Philadelphia ranks in our top 5 fundraisers and is highly respected in the Philadelphia community. Even more amazing? The board actually takes the time to visit each program they grant money to, to gain a better understanding of the program’s needs and the children they serve.

Inspired by the tremendous dedication of First Book – Philadelphia, we were back in the warehouse the next morning at 7am for the most exciting day of the Book Distribution: pick up day. Our challenge: move over a thousand boxes of books from the basement warehouse, up the elevator, and onto the loading dock in time for over 40 programs to pick up books. By the end the day, the books were in route to the hands of children thanks to the help from fabulous volunteers, including Miss New Jersey herself, a supporter for First Book and an avid advocate of literacy.

As the piles of boxes dwindled, we knew we had done our part in arming the children of Philadelphia and beyond with the books they need to become life-long readers. With tired feet and sore arms we headed back to DC, knowing that because of the First Book National Book Bank, these children will now have the opportunity to own their very own book – an opportunity no child should live without.