Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Passionate Teacher Using Innovative Methods

A special salute to a very passionate teacher, Sheila O’Gorman, at John L. Marsh Elementary School in Chicago.

Even during the summer she is using innovative methods to boost her students’ reading levels.

Last year, O’Gorman had the bright idea to get the kids hooked on reading through audio books they listen to on iPods while reading along with books donated by Reader To Reader. The kids love the iPods because they “look cool” and they are reading up a storm.

Now the kids are reading on their own without the audio aids.

“The kids are really enjoying reading the many, many books you sent with the last request, a lot of Goosebumps which my boys love,” she reports.

Next up for the kids are classics from Twain, Dickens, Stevenson and H.G. Wells. We are busy gathering the books together and she has her iPods at the ready. (She needs a few more iPods if you would like to donate.)

Keep up the great work Sheila! Your innovative methods are making a difference.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Should Have 7,000 Books in the Library

Dear Reader To Reader,

I would first like to thank you for all the books. We are a very small school, and our book collection is even smaller. I should have 7,000 books in the library collection, according to state department standards. I inventoried 3,500 at the end of last school term. With that being said, I really appreciate all that your organization is doing for my library.

It is organizations like yours that enhance rural libraries like mine.

Thank you again.


Evette Brumsfield
Media Specialist
S.V. Marshall High School
Lexington, Mississippi

Friday, July 25, 2008

Christian Science Monitor Features Reader To Reader

Boxes and boxes: Intern Meredith Wilson sorts through books for the Reader to Reader program on the campus of Amherst College, Mass.
photo: ann hermes/the Christian Science Monitor

Finding a welcome home for used books

With volunteer effort, David Mazor's idea has helped readers around the U.S.

By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the July 25, 2008 edition

Amherst, Mass. - It all started with a stack of books that needed a home.

David Mazor had some leftovers after collecting book donations for his daughter's state college. He Googled "poorest state" and came up with Mississippi. He searched for its poorest town and up popped Durant, a tiny thumbprint near the road connecting Memphis and New Orleans.

The next morning he called the town's high school librarian and asked if they needed any books. "At our school," he recalls her saying, "if someone wants to learn about landing on the moon, we don't have any books that current."

Eight years later, you'd need a shelf about 30 times the length of Durant's main drag to hold the 2,000,000 new and gently used books Mr. Mazor has distributed throughout the United States.

Each delivery is like a rain shower on thirsty land: School library spending per student has declined about 40 percent since 2000, to $11.24, according to the American Library Association.

At first, friends' donations landed in Mazor's garage, where he matched them to librarians' wish lists and shipped them off, charging postage to his credit card.

"It was so exciting to see how much the schools responded to what we were sending," he says, delight flashing across his face. "My wife thought I was kind of crazy because I woke up in the middle of the night and said, 'I know what I'm going to do!' " He shifted away from his work as a film distributor and launched a nonprofit, Reader to Reader, to sustain his matchmaking efforts.

Growing up in a family that loved to read, Mazor couldn't tolerate so many children lacking books. "In affluent communities, people were often just sort of tossing the books away because they didn't know what to do with them," he says. "We could match up that need with that resource."

It's a simple idea, but for librarians like Carla Clauschee, no one had ever proposed it before. When Mazor called her at Navajo Pine High School in Navajo, N.M., telling her he could send books, she replied, "That's great – but I can't pay for them."

Ms. Clauschee agreed to his offer because she was "really desperate," she says. Every librarian can tell horror stories of useless donations showing up at their doorstep, so "when somebody comes along and genuinely wants to help ... you have to think positive. You have to think that the box that's coming is not moth-eaten." Thanks to her trust, a once "prehistoric" collection has been updated over the past seven years with more than 7,000 books, including collections of native American literature.

"We want every single box of books that a school opens to be in absolutely fantastic condition, to be like a Christmas present," Mazor says as he casts his eye around the basement book haven that serves as Reader to Reader headquarters.

The group long ago moved out of Mazor's garage to the storage area of Amherst College's Cadigan Center for Religious Life, a squat brick building on the edge of campus. The college donated the space and some computers, and also coordinates student work-study jobs and internships here.

"It's always funny to note what was current in the 1950s," says Meredith Wilson, an intern who's a junior at Amherst. As she sorts, she says they send the books that aren't fresh enough to prisoners – or to the recycling bin.

A publisher once sent 5,000 math books. Church groups and sororities pass along the fruits of their book drives. One box of children's books came with a handmade doll attached to each. A retired teacher rented a U-Haul to deliver 35 boxes. And occasionally, there's the inexplicable: "Someone sent us hats once – sombreros," Ms. Wilson says.

Volunteers help organize books into genres and grade levels. Simple wooden shelves hold everything from science fiction paperbacks to art history textbooks to books on tape. Some stacks are labeled with fluorescent sticky notes – or half a note, a hint at the group's frugality.

Mazor's "corner office" is a windowless cramped corner. His computer sits on a desk he found on the side of the road. Wire mesh separates him from the furnace, and wooden clothespins attach his calendar and thank you notes to the wire.

With an operating budget of just $200,000, Mazor says, the group sends out about $1 million worth of books a year. By keeping things simple, they can respond to most requests immediately.

Clauschee works with many students who test well below grade level in reading. Several years ago she asked Mazor for "manga," or graphic novels. "A lot of kids won't carry around a book on a second-grade reading level if they're in high school. ... But it's really cool to carry around a graphic novel," she says. She and Mazor realized that having books on the shelves isn't always enough to encourage students to read. So they tried an online mentoring project with a class Clauschee taught last year. Mazor recruited student workers to read books of the Navajo students' choosing and participate in an online discussion. They started off with mostly native American authors, such as the popular Sherman Alexie, but broadened out with "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Kite Runner."

At first the Navajo students' posts were short and obligatory, says Wilson, one of the mentors. But Clauschee taught them to think about character development, writing style, and the author's background. The teens started logging on in their free time and making deeper comments.

Communicating one-on-one with their mentors as they read native American literature, they were "fearless," Clauschee says. "Pretty soon, the kids ... were doing their own literary criticism."

At the close of the school year, Mazor asked each student in the Navajo Pine class to give him a list of seven books they'd like to read over the summer. He bought everything on their lists, and already has bought three more for a girl who devoured her seven.

Mazor's colleagues describe him as a man who makes things happen. But he's a humble executive director. "I can remember starting this all by myself, and now we have so many other people involved," he says. "That's really what makes something like this successful – it's a team effort."

The original article can be found at

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Something New To Add To Their Meager Classroom Libraries

Dear Mr. Mazor,

We were so thrilled to receive the books your organization donated to the Maria Sanchez School in Hartford. The multiple copies were quickly distributed to all of the classrooms, including resource staff. Feedback was quick - one teacher was very excited about the book about baby chickens, as they had been discussing that topic that very day in her class. She immediately shared the book with her class. The teachers are very grateful to have something new to add to their meager classroom libraries.

Most of our students are from economically challenged backgrounds and have little access to books at home. They love to read on their own whenever they are given the chance. There can never be enough books for these students. As the saying goes: "The more you read, the more you know."

The remaining books will be distributed according to need and grade level. We will also use them as giveaways to students. In previous years, we were recipients of the RIF program, but not this year. With RIF, we were able to provide each child with three books to take home and keep. Your program will help us fill that gap. We have been working hard this year to emphasize reading and to build up the collections of individual classroom for independent reading - especially in the non-fiction area. Thanks to the generosity of U.S. Airways, we are making progress in this goal.

We hope to enlarge upon this new partnership with your organization in the future. Again, thank you so much for finding our school. And we extend out grateful thanks to U.S. Airways as well, for allowing this donation to happen.


Jean Gallogly
Library Media Specialist
Maria Sanchez School
Hartford, CT

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

So Many New Titles To Read!

Dear Friends at Reader To Reader,

On behalf of the students and teachers at White Street School I would like to say thank you for the wonderful books. Some of the books are being used in the school library and some are being used in the classroom libraries. Our students love to read and they really enjoy having so many new titles to read.

Thank you again for thinking of White Street School.


Louise Pulaski
School Library Teacher
White Street School
Springfield, MA

Monday, July 21, 2008

Thank You From Forest Park Middle School

Dear Mr. Mazor,

Please accept my heartfelt thanks for the donation of reading books that you recently gave my school. As you are undoubtedly aware, Springfield schools are chronically short books of all types.

This fall, I am planning to start a school-wide reading program and the books you provided will be a most welcome resource.

Again, thank you for your consideration, and I hope you will keep us in mind for the future.


Bonnie Osgood, Principal
Forest Park Middle School
Springfield, MA

Friday, July 18, 2008

Helping the Amherst Survival Center Help So Many

A quick stop yesterday to donate hundreds of coloring books to the Amherst Survival Center.

The coloring books were courtesy a generous donation from Modern Publishing.

The Amherst Survival Center provides “a welcoming community where people in need receive food, clothing, relief from isolation, and social service referrals and information. No one is turned away. An equally important function of the Center is to help people move beyond a condition of need, to help them to help themselves and each other.”

What an important role they fill!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What A Joy To Get Your Phone Call

What a joy it was to get your phone call regarding the donation of new books to DeBerry! As a result of Reader To Reader's donation, we were able to provide 5 new books (hard and soft covers) to each of our 4th and 5th grade scholars for the summer.

Both teachers and scholars were elated at the beautiful books we were given. The scholars were excited about having their own personal copies of these books. With the remaining donated books we were able to add copies of each title to our school library as well as our 4th and 5th grade classroom libraries.

For the last several years, Reader To Reader Inc. has supplied us with wonderful children's literature and instructional materials which we are eternally grateful. I am hoping that our relationship continues and extends to other projects and opportunities which will enhance and motivate our scholars' interests and literacy skills.

With Regards,

Mary Worthy, Principal
From: William N. De Berry Elementary
Springfield, MA

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Inspiring Others to Give

Dear Reader To Reader,

Because of your organization our library is getting the quality books we need. Because of this, we are growing and are now having a fundraiser.

I have a couple who stop by the library from time to time but rarely check out a book, they just stop in to see how things are going. After seeing the wonderful donations being made and our lack of adequate shelving, they offered a total of $500 to match any other donation that I could get. That really got the ball rolling and we are now up to $1,100 in total for shelving.

I just wanted you to know that your book donations have inspired more people to read and now some who don't even check out our books are donating for shelving as they stop in and see community members of all ages using the library.

Very truly yours,

Lisa Gunter
Quinlan Community Library
Quinlan, TX

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Was Honestly Stunned By The Number of Titles Included In The Delivery

Dear Mr. Mazor,

On behalf of the students and staff of Anna E. Barry School we would like to express a heart-felt 'Thank You' for the generous book donation from Reader to Reader, Inc.

I was honestly stunned by the number of titles included in the delivery, the wonderful condition and the appropriateness for our elementary students. We look forward to going through all the boxes and distributing the books to the classrooms and library. There is no doubt the teachers and students of Barry School will be overjoyed!

We thank you for supporting the school and very much look forward to Reader to Reader's next visit.


David T. Drugan, Principal
Anna E. Barry Elementary
Chicopee, MA

Monday, July 14, 2008

Navajo Summer Reading Program Going Strong

Citizen Summer intern Samia Hesni reads a book before correspond-ing with Navajo Pine High School students participating in the Summer Reader Program.

All the students in the Navajo Mentoring Program were given seven books each of their choosing in order to encourage them to read during their summer vacation.

Although Internet access is limited or nonexistent for many of these students, those that have been able to get to a computer have reported that they are reading up a storm. One student already finished all seven of her books during the first month and we ordered three more books to be shipped to her from

Here's a comment from one of the enthusiastic students:

"Hello, I finally got to a computer so now I just thought I would tell you about a great book I have read. The book I read is from the books that Mr. Mazor sent and is called Black and White. It was a great book and now I have started on another. Can you believe it? The books that Mr. Mazor sent are so interesting and can't wait to read them all."

We are so pleased to hear from these students and hope they have a fantastic summer filled with the pleasures of a good book.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

21 Years and Still More to Give!

Retired teacher Christine Mulcahey rented a U-Haul to donate 35 boxes of books to Reader To Reader.

“I hope children will pick up these books and learn to love reading,” she says.

Christine taught for 21 years at Littleville Elementary in the Gateway regional School District. When she retired this spring she wanted to make sure all the books and teaching resources she acquired over two decades found a new home in classrooms at under-resourced schools.

She had accumulated so many books that she had to rent a van to bring them down to us.

Thanks Christine! We know thousands of kids will enjoy this mountain of books.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Kudos to Comcast!

On Monday we delivered the last box of over 15,000 brand new elementary and middle school books to schools in Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee and W. Springfield. We want to highlight Comcast's sponsorship of Reader To Reader's Spring Book Extravaganza. Without Comcast's generous support, this program would not have been possible.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Brand New Books for Greenfield Middle School

Greenfield Middle School in Greenfield, MA received one of our recent book deliveries.

Greenfield’s public schools have struggled to deal with a 2.3 million dollar deficit. School closings as well as program cuts and teacher and staff lay offs hit the district hard this year.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Reader To Reader Profiled in "The Read-Aloud Handbook"

A couple of days ago famed literacy advocate and bestselling author Jim Trelease dropped by to donate hundreds of children’s books. Jim is the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook.

This outstanding book (published by Penguin Books) has sold more than two million copies over the years and is an essential tool for parents as they struggle to raise strong readers in this age of television and videogames. It is divided into two parts: the first half contains the "ways" and "whys" of raising readers; and the last half consists of an annotated bibliography of more than 1,000 children's books. His capsule reviews of children’s books are an invaluable tool for selecting books for your children, grandchildren or classroom.

The sixth and most recent edition included a wonderful profile on the origin of Reader To Reader and Jim Trelease has kindly allowed us to reprint an excerpt from the book.

So, if you ever wondered how it all began…

…we drive east to North Adams, Massachusetts, where one day in 2000, David Mazor was visiting his daughter at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Mazor had been an independent film distributor for twenty years and now resided in Amherst, the town he grew up in. He’d also been doing some writing on the subject of futurism and now, finished with the subject, he looked around for someone who might be able to use one of the brand new books he’d used in his research. He wondered if the college’s library could use them.

“Absolutely,” declared the librarian. “We haven’t been able to buy a new book in two years because of budget cuts. All the money goes for online periodicals.” And thus was sparked an idea that became a consuming fire in Mazor’s mind.

“If you want books, I’ll get you books,” Mazor to him. And he meant it. “I was living in Amherst, surrounded by all these professors from five colleges--Amherst, Smith, UMass, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke--people who have more books than they know what to do with,” he explained to me one day. He ended up collecting so many books the college had to send a truck to collect them.

And then one night Mazor thought, if a state college in a state like Massachusetts is short of books, what about elementary and high schools? He “Googled” “poorest county in the poorest state” and came up with Durant, Mississippi (population 3,000, average income $19,600). “I was so excited about the idea, I could barely sleep. In the morning, I call Durant High School and asked if they needed books. The librarian told me they hadn’t been able to buy a book in forty years. All their funds went to repair the building. So when they built the new school in 1960, if they brought over the books from the old school, most are still there and not much has been added. She told me if a kid wanted to read a book on the Apollo mission, it would be impossible in that library.

“Books aren’t like basketball backboards,” Mazor explains. “If the backboard breaks, the school runs out and fixes it because they’ve got a game scheduled in the gym for Friday night. But when a book is lost or damaged, it doesn’t get replaced because there’s nothing coming Friday night that requires it.”

At this point Mazor’s mind was doing something he learned to do back in high school. He grew up in a family of readers, his father a law professor and his mother a social worker, and there were books everywhere. But one book stood out then and still does. It was a little paperback-- Go Up for Glory, the autobiography of basketball great Bill Russell. It transported Mazor from his privileged circumstances in Amherst to Russell’s segregated Louisiana and left an indelible impression. And there was another point in the book, a section in which Russell described his psychological breakthrough--where he started to “visualize” game situations before they happened and then how he would respond in the game. By the 1990’s, this concept would be a staple of sports psychologists.

“Even as a kid, I got the point immediately and it shaped my life,” he recalls. “All these years later, I’m thinking, if that book could make that big an impression on me as a kid, what about the book that’s supposed to bring some kid to the far reaches of the world, the book he’s never going to see because it’s not in his school library. Somewhere there’s a kid who has never seen a Van Gogh or a Michelangelo, but if he reads a biography there’s a chance his life could change. The right book…the right kid.” And all this time, Mazor is doing his Bill Russell thing, visualizing the possibilities.

“I live in this community where we have all these books that no one’s read since junior was in fourth grade. So out to the yard sale go the books on a weekend. If nobody buys them, they get thrown out. It’s like having all these oil wells in your backyard. ‘What a nuisance! How are we going to get rid of all this excess oil?’ Books in affluent homes don’t get reread or worn-out.” Mazor began to network in an area that had as many educators and books per square mile as any place in America. Soon he no longer had to hit the yard sales; cartons were being dropped off at his house and his garage was overflowing.

He now had boxes of books for Durant and was “Googling” through the south, Indian reservations, colleges, high schools and elementaries. Here was a roadmap for his dream. Talking with librarians at various sites, he began to tailor the shipments: “What kinds of books do you need most? Listen, if you find a kid who is interested in a particular subject and you haven’t got a book on it, e-mail me and I’ll get it.” One school asked for books in English and Bengali--he got them!

He was soon supplying ten to fifteen schools around the country, and not just with single shipments. “I realized this was becoming too important to be a hobby. So I sold my business, formed a nonprofit called Reader to Reader, Inc., and Amherst College donated space in the religious life center.” By 2005, he was supplying 160 schools in twenty-seven states from Maine to Mississippi, and he had more than a dozen volunteers cleaning, sorting, and packing--including a retired college admissions officer. A grant from Daimler-Chrysler paid for all his shipping costs, special purchases and wish list for one year. Cash and check donations began to pour in along with books. The local Barnes & Noble asked customers to donate a book when they bought one at Christmastime and it brought in 1,500 books. As of 2006, Reader to Reader had shipped 200,000 books to some of the book-neediest places in America.

Danny Brassell, Robin and Brandon Keefe, Brigid Hubberman, David Mazor--four people who saw things as they were and asked why, four people who dreamed things that never were and asked why not? Forget the debates about cloning dogs and sheep- clone these people and you could change America.

(Copyright 2006 Jim Trelease)

We have grown substantially since this aritice was written, expanding our reach and developing our new mentoring programs. Over two million books later we are still hard at work.

Please note that Danny Brassell, Robin and Brandon Keefe, and Brigid Hubberman mentioned above have all made outstanding contributions in the fight for literacy. Please pick up a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook to read their inspiring stories.