California-based Access Books adheres to the belief of ‘giving hugs by giving books’. Founder Rebecca Constantino knows that children love books, children want books and children read books. Their goal is to provide as many interesting and fun books as possible to underserved children in our community. Since 1999, with the help of volunteers, they’ve refurbished over 300 libraries and donated more than 1.7 million books. Since COVID-related school closures, Access Books has worked directly with schools to provide over 136,000 new books - close to 37,000 students and served over 66 schools.
Access Books focuses largely on refurbishing and support of school libraries; for the past 40 years, California has consistently ranked near the very bottom for school library funding nationwide. This has resulted in a limited number of books per children in schools, a reduced number of librarians, and, in some cases, no operating school library. Since COVID19, Access Books has refurbished 4 school libraries and will refurbish 4 more before Spring 2021. A small team of artists in residence (led by Claire Freedman) has painted murals on libraries; volunteer groups catalogued the library books offsite and delivered to schools. To build literacy culture, Access Books hosts a podcast and book clubs for kids. Another central component of Access Books is author visits. They partnered with the Compton Unified School to host 9,475 students in a zoom visit with Jeff Kinney, author of the bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series (click here to watch video). Author Bethany Barton hosted. While being funny and engaging, Jeff also provided some wonderful life lessons; one student remarked “this is the best day of my life, you are my hero.” With each visit, students receive a copy of the author’s book. Other wonderful, engaging and fun authors have visited classrooms via zoom. Author visits have included:
Crowd favorite DJ MacHale
Popular middle-grade author Stuart Gibbs
Award-winning author and artist, Bethany Barton
Writer and illustrator team of Helaine Becker and Tieremdow Phumiruk (Counting On Katherine: How Katherine Johnson saved Apollo 13)
"This is a lifeline for kids. They know we think reading is important and the books you give are what they want to read. The books aren’t junk and that tells the kids you value them. -Ms. Vance at Martin Luther King Elementary