Books and buddies

Getting books in the hands of poor children invests in their future and promotes the Toledo area

Ella P. Stewart Academy for Girls students inspect books brought by Lucas County sheriff’s deputies in the Books 4 Buddies program.
Ella P. Stewart Academy for Girls students inspect books brought by Lucas County sheriff’s deputies in the Books 4 Buddies program.

Reading is the foundation of all learning. Nothing is more important to a child’s success than cultivating a love and appreciation of reading.

Poor children usually don’t have the same access to books and other educational opportunities as do their more-affluent peers. Many enter school already far behind in literacy and preliteracy skills and never catch up, saddling them with lifetime disadvantages that, one way or the other, all of us pay for.

That’s why Toledo’s Books 4 Buddies program is so important. It provides books to young people who might not otherwise get them, and inspires them to read through the encouragement of peer ambassadors — Toledo-area high school and middle school students who help collect and distribute donated books. The program targets youths, especially disadvantaged males, up to 18 years of age in Toledo and northwest Ohio.

Last year, Books 4 Buddies collected more than 10,000 books. Volunteers distributed them at Birmingham Terrace, the Frederick Douglass Community Association, the Adelante Latino Resource Center, and other spots.

Books 4 Buddies’ second annual collection drive and literacy campaign launched last month at Westfield Franklin Park mall. By collecting pennies, students at Burroughs Elementary School in Toledo have already raised $300 to buy new books for Books 4 Buddies.

“Young people can broaden their experience through reading books,’’ said Eddie Allen, Jr., a journalist, author and Books 4 Buddies adviser. “This program encourages not only their education, but also their imagination.”

Fifteen-year-old L. Toure McCord II, a Toledo native who now lives in Cincinnati, started Books 4 Buddies with help from his grandmother, Laneta Goings of Toledo, the program’s president. Toure wanted to cultivate his love of reading in other young people, especially males from low-income families. He continues to work with the program.

“I was just trying to give back to the community by giving kids something that maybe they didn’t have,” Toure, a sophomore who plans to go to law school, told The Blade’s editorial page.

Donations have come from individuals, bookstores, and community groups. This year’s sponsors again include The Blade, Buckeye CableSystem, WTVG-TV, Channel 13, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and CedarCreek Church.

The Lucas County Sheriff’s Office also works with Books 4 Buddies. Last year, Sheriff John Tharp initiated efforts to pack donated books in the trunks of squad cars patroling Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority sites, enabling deputies to get them to children. That effort not only put books into the hands of children who needed them, but also improved relations between police officers and the community.

Donating books for young people is an easy way to do something important for your community this summer. Drop-off locations include Metroparks, CedarCreek Church campuses, and The Blade.

For more details, call 866-944-1119 or go to