How One Teen Is Tackling the Educational Slide with Her Pandemic-Inspired Literacy-Focused Philanthropy

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Spotty wifi isn’t the only risk associated with school closures and diminished educational access during this pandemic. When schools closed, so did many school and local libraries. These closures meant that students in low-income neighborhoods may have lost their only access to books and educational, high-interest reading materials. While some schools may have found workarounds, students in underserved communities are at a much higher risk for an educational slide since they simply don’t have the same quality of online schooling options or resources. Additionally, access to books and quality reading materials is essential for education equity and literacy, which has been directly linked to long-term outcomes, such as graduation rates, higher education degrees, and future earnings potential. Alana Weisberg, a Los Angeles high school student, decided to use this time as an opportunity to make a difference in her local community and the broader national community, which led her to start her philanthropic organization Bookworm Global.

Bookworm Global is a literacy-focused philanthropic organization that works to provide greater access to high-interest, high-quality, age-appropriate reading materials to children in underserved communities, including those living in poverty who have never before owned a book. Bookworm Global has persevered through the pandemic and found ways to make a huge impact, in spite of social distancing, with contactless book drives, lending libraries, and book packages provided for students who come for food distribution. The greatest predictor of literacy for children living in poverty is the quality of their school library, and school library shutdowns remove this one avenue from the students who need it most.

Successful education and literacy isn’t simply about access; it’s also about quality, and that’s one thing that Bookworm Global puts at the forefront of all of their giving efforts. Alana and her hundreds of volunteers sort through every single donated book, discarding those of poor quality that are missing pages or full of annotations. They then sort the books by series, topic, and age range to ensure they can provide the most relevant, interesting books to the students who would most enjoy and benefit from them. Providing entire book series’ is one of Bookworm Global’s most helpful tactics to promote literacy and an interest in independent reading since the continued plotlines of these books keep students engaged for a longer period and provoke their interest in completing the entire series.

Alana Weisberg has always had a deep love for reading, and she was initially excited about being able to do her part through her own donations and book drives. However, before long, her excitement and passion for this new service project became infectious, and Alana felt compelled to share her mission and spread awareness with her friends and peers, those within her local community, and eventually those beyond her local community. Since starting Bookworm Global in the summer, on the heels of a business-building extracurricular program that invigorated Alana to make a real-world impact through her own independent organization, she has trained over 230 volunteers who have donated over 16,200 books to date and counting. Bookworm Global has partnered with schools, nonprofits, and underserved communities, and Alana aims to expand her organization to tackle the literacy and education gap all throughout Southern and Northern California and eventually throughout the entire country.

Alana is a prime example of a student who made the most of her time at home this summer and who continues to do so. Regardless of the state of the pandemic and whether schools are opened or closed, Alana feels that the socioeconomic education gap is a significant issue in our world today and one that deserves much more attention and action than it currently receives. If you would like to learn more about Alana, Bookworm Global, and possibly how you can get involved or spread awareness, you can visit their website here or reach out to info@bookwormglobal.com.

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