The Lisa Libraries
Hi, readers! Since books have been an important part of my life, I've always been interested in libraries. As a child growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, I was a frequent visitor to the Princeton Public Library. Back then, we were allowed to take out up to ten books at a time, and I made my selections very carefully. Most of the time I chose books that I hadn't already read, but sometimes I would be in the mood to reread one of my favorites. I have so many wonderful memories of the characters I met when I was younger — Dr. Dolittle, Pippi Longstocking, Stuart Little, Nancy Drew, Flicka, and the Cowardly Lion, to name a few. I quickly learned that I would love almost anything written by Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter, L. Frank Baum, E. B. White, Pearl S. Buck, and Astrid Lindgren. These authors and their stories helped inspire me to become a writer.
Several years ago, I became involved in a project called the Lisa Libraries. The Lisa Libraries was created in memory of a good friend and children's book editor, Lisa Novak, who died in 1990. Lisa had a number of close friends, and we decided to honor her memory by finding a way to distribute new books to children in need. As writers and readers, we wanted to share our love of books with kids who might not have books of their own at home or easy access to a library.
The Lisa Libraries collects donations of new children's books (from authors, publishers, book reviewers, editors and so forth). Then we sort the donations into categories the same way your library does, and pack the books into boxes to send to places that serve children.
One of the wonderful programs that the Lisa Libraries works with is called Reach Out and Read. Reach Out and Read started in Boston in 1989 with the goal of making early literacy a regular part of the pediatric care that a child receives. When a child goes to the doctor for a checkup, in addition to an examination and the necessary immunizations, each child also receives a book to take home and keep. The doctor writes a "prescription" that calls for the parents to read to the child every day. There are currently over 180 Reach Out and Read sites in clinics and pediatricians' offices in 39 states! A good idea travels fast!
Here in New York, the Reach Out and Read program was officially launched in December, 1998, with First Lady Hillary Clinton in attendance. The Lisa Libraries began their partnership with Reach Out and Read the following September. It is quite an undertaking, because there are over thirty sites in the New York City area alone that serve thousands of children each year.
Since the children's ages range from six months to five years, our goal is to donate as many picture books and board boards as we can. Now when the doctors, nurses, and clinic workers at Reach Out and Read sites encourage parents to read aloud to their children every day, they'll be able to help "fill" the prescriptions they've written by giving soon-to-be loved storybooks to their young patients.
Nothing makes me happier than knowing that another child will fall asleep tonight after hearing his or her favorite bedtime story. I love kids, I love to read, and I love having my very own books, so you can see why I'm a big fan of Reach Out and Read!
As always, happy reading!