Amy Zaslansky held a book drive to donate paperbacks to a Hempstead schoolteacher’s class in 2012. The overwhelming response she received inspired what she called an “Aha! moment.”
The mother of three from Bellmore then founded Book Fairies, a Freeport-based nonprofit that collects reading materials for those in need. What started as one person driving around in a van across Long Island to collect donations has now turned into a mission to fight illiteracy throughout the New York Metro area. The group donated its two millionth book during a drive on Sunday.
“There is a cycle of poverty that stems from illiteracy.” says Zaslansky, noting that 70 percent of prison inmates can’t read above a third-grade level and 90 percent of welfare recipients are high school dropouts. “We want to break that cycle and have students be achieving to the best of their ability academically. The statistics are so intensely startling and jaw-dropping.”
The group has donated books to libraries, schools, community organizations, homeless shelters, children’s hospitals, and elsewhere.
She and her team of charitable teens with developmental disabilities sort the donations. But Zaslansky and her team understand that receiving the donated books is only part of the equation.
“One of our main goals is to have people know which books to donate,” she says. “We don’t mean to seem picky, but we know that the best books are those with high interest level to make children actually want to read more and be a stepping stone in their education”.
Though their popularity may be diminishing with the uproar in technological advances over the past 15 years, books are far more vital than many people realize. While a healthy supply of books for a school or residency doesn’t seem like a luxury, the cost of new books for elementary schools with low funding makes a severe impact.
“What people don’t understand,” says Zaslansky, “is that the cost of a new book is quite expensive. Filling up shelves of them for different grades is extremely tough for schools whose budget does not incorporate the necessary funds for education.”
To learn more, visit thebookfairies.org