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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

BookMentors Uses Micropatronage and Social Networking to Solve Book Access Problems in Underserved Schools

(San Francisco, CA) — With budget cuts to public and charter schools throughout the country, new and relevant books have become a valuable and scarce commodity in classrooms and libraries. Connecting teachers, librarians, and students in need of books with donors supporting literacy, reading, and education, BookMentors uses micropatronage to solve book access problems in high-poverty schools.

A space for anyone passionate about the power of books, the Web site enables readers, writers, publishers, and teachers to connect and share information about children’s and YA literature. Unique features include virtual book drives, which allow parent, teacher, and community organizations to request and donate books, using leaderboards as a charitable gamification incentive.

The site was founded by former urban teacher and literacy coach Jen Soalt, but is run through a board of dedicated volunteers located across the country.

“We wanted to create a space where readers, donors, and teachers could connect and feel like the gift of a particular book to a particular classroom mattered,” Soalt says. “They can share the pleasure of an exchange entirely focused on literature and reading — bookworms and teachers who love teaching reading can affirm their joy in sharing books with children.”

BookMentors allows teachers to ask for the particular book or books they really need, not just any donated old books that won’t meet the needs and preferences of individual students or teaching curriculum.

“For reluctant readers, a bright new book, specifically chosen by a teacher for them can make a huge different to motivation,” Soalt says.

Lack of access to books constrains the literacy development of students in poor communities. There are about 13 books per child in middle-income neighborhoods. In low-income neighborhoods, this ratio has been estimated to be approximately 1 book at home for every 300 children.

While e-books may be trending across some schools, most can not afford to provide e-readers for each student. Additionally, there has been increasing research suggesting students have better comprehension, attention span, and even sleep patterns with print books.

The site was founded by former urban teacher and literacy coach Jen Soalt, but is run through a board of dedicated volunteers located across the country.

Learn more at www.bookmentors.org.

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