By Nick Grabbe
Published on December 18, 2009
A local organization has arranged for 150,000 new children's books to be delivered to New Orleans children, whose schools are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, in time for Christmas.
Reader to Reader has donated 2.8 million books to schools and libraries in needy areas, about half of them in New Orleans. This latest shipment of 150,000 books, which arrived Monday in two tractor trailers, was donated by Barnes & Noble.
"New Orleans is such a long-term project," said David Mazor, Reader to Reader's executive director.
"It had very resource-starved schools before Hurricane Katrina. It takes commitment over time to rebuild the resources and improve what they had before."
This delivery of books represents a new direction for Reader to Reader, which is based at the Cadigan Center for Religious Life at Amherst College, he said.
It's gone beyond scanning the rejects from used book sales, and is now working more with national retailers, he said.
Barnes & Noble officials approached Reader to Reader and asked for its help in arranging the shipment to New Orleans, timing the books' arrival and distribution, Mazor said.
He is currently negotiating with another national retailer for a similar project in another needy part of the U.S., he said.
The Barnes & Noble chairman and his wife have been active in building homes in New Orleans, Mazor said. The company is the world's largest bookseller, with 775 stores.
The 150,000 books are going to the Recovery School District of New Orleans, which has more than 37,000 students. The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps is helping to distribute the books to schools in time for them to be given to students before the Christmas break.
"Our goal is to get at least one to every student," Mazor said.
Some stuffed animals were included in the shipment. The books are new and are not overstocked items, and appeal to all ages of school children, he said.
"This is the single biggest donation of new books and toys that we have ever made in one shipment," Mazor said.
In September, Reader to Reader donated books by children's author Mo Willems to every first- and second-grade student in the New Orleans district.