By Beccah Hendrickson
LINDENWOLD, New Jersey (WPVI) — A South Jersey teacher is changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in his community by giving them the gift of books.
Lindenwold High School English teacher Larry Abrams started the nonprofit “Book Smiles” to donate gently used books to anyone who may not have access to them.
“If they’re reading on level by the time they’re in 4th grade, they’re going to be academically successful,” said Abrams, who is on a mission to spread what he calls “book wealth.”
“It’s a term that we made up and it’s an appropriate term because we need to start looking at used books as being a commodity,” he said.
It’s an idea he’d been thinking about for years, starting when he had a student who was also a mother who didn’t have any books for her baby.
“You have kids on the other side who have no books growing up,” he told his senior projects class about his nonprofit.
Three years ago he started building the nonprofit, which has expanded to a 4,000-square-foot warehouse in Pennsauken.
“This is a place where people donate their books by the tens of thousands,” he said of the space.
The nonprofit has collected and redistributed nearly a million children’s books.
“We harvest book wealth. Instead of spending big bucks on books, people donate them to us. That way we can keep our costs down and we can give them to kids in need,” he said.
A lot of the donations come from hand-painted trashcans. The team has nearly 100 of these around South Jersey and greater Philadelphia where people can just open the lid and drop in the books.
“Little by little, we’re getting books into the hands of kids and babies who may not have a lot of their own at home,” he said.
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