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Brooklyn Book Bodega

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

Brooklyn Book Bodega’s (BBB) mission is to increase the number of 100+ book homes for kids 0-18 in NYC. They bridge communities while providing resources (free books and programming) so that every family can have books in their home and join a vibrant, literate community regardless of financial status.

BBB was founded by three moms and grew out of a recognition that their children loved to read for pleasure. Despite the resources and wealth in Brooklyn, parts of it are classified as “book deserts”. BBB draws together a wide audience - parents looking for a weekend family activity, expectant mothers planning for the birth of their babies, grandparents trying to diversify a stale collection, teachers filling out their classroom libraries, teens looking for specific titles, immigrant fathers looking for titles in their native languages, and young moms building their toddlers’ first library. Their visitors and volunteers come from diverse socio-economic, racial, and cultural backgrounds; it is not uncommon to talk to someone who lives in public housing or who owns a multi-million dollar apartment.

“Given the goals of not only getting books into the hands of children and creating positive book culture, we find Downtown Brooklyn to be an excellent location for bridging communities and promoting literacy. BBB uniquely connects communities while ensuring that families living in poverty have access to our programming."

The statistics:

  • 45,000 residents call Downtown Brooklyn home, with 11,400 residing in public housing

  • The area also boasts a strong level of diversity along racial and socio-economic lines (31% Black; 30% White; 22% Latino/Hispanic; 14% Asian American)

Growth and interest in BBB has been consistently strong because of their meaningful partnerships with local communities, schools, and families. In December of 2018, they hosted their first BBB event at Ingersoll Cornerstone Community Center (ICCC). A total of 35 individuals attended, 275 free books were given new homes. They've already hosted 10 BBB free events: book giveaways coupled with literacy programming, author visits, community-based organizations sharing information and educating visitors.

“Having books at home helps children develop vocabulary and background knowledge while creating a real joy for reading and book culture. If you put books in accessible places, people want them and will make book culture part of their home culture. ”

All of the above accomplishments to date could have not happened without the support of in-kind donations and services from their local bookstores, volunteers, and partnerships with community centers and schools. They've hosted 10 school and after-school events--distributing 8,186 books to 1,211 students and teachers. Books come from a variety of community sources, including: families donating gently-used books, school libraries updating their collections, author donations, and book stores giving away advance reader copies.

On average, BBB gives out 1,613 books to 216 people at each public giveaway. As of February 2020 (15 months into their work), they have given out 24,335 books to 3,412 people and engaged over 260 volunteers.

Researcher Susan Neuman (click here for her End Book Deserts podcast) suggests that the vocabulary gap is not just about what words children hear in conversation, but is rather about what words they are exposed to in books. Put in another way, the vocabulary gap is a symptom of a book gap. Children whose parents have the resources to procure books for their child are more likely to use the language that exposes their children to the vocabulary that will make them successful in school and in life.

For more information on the Brooklyn Book Bodega....

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