- Organization Name:Access Books
- Address:P.O. Box 64951
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Our mission is twofold: to provide high-interest reading material to underserved children in the greater Los Angeles area, and to provide a warm and welcoming school or community library. In this process, different communities work together around the love of books.
We provide books to schools that have a high population of children receiving Title I funds (at least 90 percent) and most live in underserved communities such as Watts, South Central, Compton, parts of the Valley and East Los Angeles. Most students at the schools we serve are children of color and children of immigrants living at or near the poverty line. While our goal is to provide literacy opportunities for disadvantaged students, we also promote leadership and community involvement among more privileged children.
Access Books was formed in 1999 based on research that shows you learn to read by reading, but first you must have something to read (Krashen, 1993, 2003). While conducting research for her Ph.D. dissertation, the founder of Access Books, Rebecca Constantino, visited schools in both affluent and poor neighborhoods. She found that students in wealthy areas had access to more books in their home than poor children had in their home, classroom, school and public library combined (Constantino, et.al., 1997, Constantino, 2007). She also found that in some affluent schools, good quality books were discarded on a regular basis, making room for new ones. Thus, Access Books was born.
Access Books has donated more than a million books to school and community libraries in the greater Los Angeles area. Each year, approximately 18,000 pre-kindergarten through middle school-aged children participate in Access Books, our emphasis being on grades K-5.
Access Books was created to address the great need among inner-city and underserved children for reading material. Research indicates that the best predictor of reading ability is access to books, and in poverty-ridden areas, the quality of the school library is the best predictor of reading achievement (McQuillan, 2000, Allington, 2009). For the past 30 years in California, school library funding has been ignored, resulting in neglected and pitiful libraries. Many schools have books that are outdated (as old as the 1950s), tattered and uninteresting. We have culled from shelves books such as Taming the Savage Negro and When Man Will Go to the Moon. Unfortunately, California ranks last in the nation in funding for school libraries, spending less than one dollar per child. The American School Library research data clearly shows that students with access to school libraries and good books score higher in state reading scores and are more interested in reading.
Sadly, children in underserved areas have little, if any, access to books at home or in their public library. In some cases, they must wait up to nine months for a popular book to become available in their library. In many affluent areas, however, children have access to books in the home as well as their school libraries because in-house fundraising can provide for great libraries. This means affluent children gain all the academic benefits of access to books, but more importantly, they gain access to the joys that reading and books can bring. Poor children, meanwhile, are left without anything to read. In Los Angeles, the budget crisis compounds this problem. Los Angeles Public Library branches are closing, reducing their hours and cutting staff. LAUSD has issued pink slips to all of the district's teacher-librarians. Without access to books in school or public libraries, disadvantaged children have even fewer avenues to literacy.
The School Library Association recommends 25 books per student, and nationally, school libraries average 22 books per student (CDE, 2005). Here in California, the average number of school library books per student (grades K-12) is 17.9. The schools served by Access Books, however, average six books per student.
To illustrate the disparity in our community, Kenter Elementary School in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles has a beautiful free standing school library, built with parental raised funds. The library serves 450 students and has a collection of about 9,000 volumes. The titles are current and up to date. Students at Kenter also have access to home libraries and a nearby public library. The closest bookstore is a few short miles. Conversely, King Elementary School in Compton has 500 students and a collection of 3,000 titles. There is no neighborhood bookstore.
- Year established:1999
- Organization type:Grantseeker
- Country of registration:United States
- Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
- IRS Section:501(c)(3)
- IRS Subsection:None
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