The WHY Behind Book Trust

It’s time to say a fond farewell to CEO Amy Friedman, who has been at the helm of Book Trust for over seven years. As was often our experience, Amy says it best – please enjoy her final blog post.

Dear Book Trust Community,

Over the past seven years, the best part of my job has been spending time in schools with students celebrating the arrival of their Book Trust books. It is our students’ stories which became my Why for being, and it is their stories which will forever be ingrained in my heart. And as I depart Book Trust for new adventures, I invite you to keep these stories close as well.

Juan was a Book Trust student. Over the course of the year, his backpack was growing heavier and heavier. So heavy that his teacher finally said, Juan, this is ridiculous. This backpack is weighing you down. We are cleaning it out today! When she finally got Juan to open his bag, sure enough, she found the personal library he had been building from Book Trust books all year long—20 books! Her first reaction was to admonish him for lugging all those books back and forth each day. Fortunately, before she opened her mouth, she realized the reason his bag was full of all his books was probably because he didn’t have a place to call home – where he could build a bookshelf and safely keep his books. When she asked Juan about this, he shared that these books were the only thing that belonged to him and he refused to risk losing them as he moved from shelter to motel and back again. They were books he chose. Books he loved and books that allowed him to escape to another world.

Each month Maya’s teacher distributed the Scholastic Book Club flyers to students. Students would choose their books at school and take the flyers home to talk about their book choices with their parents and parents signed the order form. Each day for a week, Maya’s teacher asked her about her order form. “Miss, I forgot. I’m sorry. Please don’t order the books yet. I know exactly which books I want. I will bring it tomorrow. I promise.” Finally, it was the last day before her teacher had to place the order. Maya walked in hesitantly holding her completed order form. Her teacher was thrilled. During recess, she looked at the form, and to her disbelief, the signature line read, “Maya’s Mom” in Maya’s handwriting. The teacher called Maya in from the playground. She asked Maya why she simply wrote, “Maya’s Mom.” Maya lowered her head to the table and began to cry, “My mom just went to jail and I’m living with my older brother now.” She went on to explain that nobody was ever home to sign the form, and she so desperately wanted to order her books. They were books she chose. Books she wanted to read. Books that would help her become a better reader and do well in school so that she could go onto college, something nobody in her family had ever done.

Diego was a fifth grader, and one month he chose a new Batman book as part of his monthly Book Trust order. Diego’s younger brother, three-year-old Adrian, was a huge Batman fan. Adrian had been asking about Diego’s new Batman book ever since the order was placed. Every day when Diego came home from school, Adrian met him at the door: ‘Has it arrived yet? Did it come yet? Is it here?’ The day the Book Trust books finally arrived, Diego was beside himself with excitement. As soon as the bell rang, he raced home to read the book to Adrian. After finishing the story for the third time, Adrian said, “Hermano, I can’t wait to go to school. I want to know what all those letters mean.” This is what Book Trust does. It instills a passion, a desire, a drive, to read and to learn.

Frederick Douglass once said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” For all the students Book Trust serves, they deserve every opportunity to be free. Learning to read and succeeding in school are critical to their success in life. Book Trust sparks that love of reading in kids so that success in school and in life become a reality.

Our Book Trust students’ stories will continue to be my Why for being. It is the same Why that drives our teachers, our team members, our partners, our volunteers, our supporters, and our board members to passionately support Book Trust. Book Trust wouldn’t be the organization it is today without you, and I thank you for every ounce of effort and every penny you put forth to support our work to change the lives of children in need by inspiring a passion for reading.

As my family and I head to Israel for what we hope will be the adventure of our lifetime, know that I leave Book Trust confident that I will forever be committed to inspiring a passion for reading among kids in need and excited to continue supporting Book Trust just like you.

With deep gratitude,

Amy

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