Saving the East Bay Children’s Book Project by Locating it in a School

A powerful literacy development non-profit that puts books in the hands of Oakland youth is on the verge of collapse, another victim of the rising rents, and Oakland displacement, but we can stop it.  The East Bay Children’s Book Project  can’t afford the rents and the community can’t afford to lose the services.  Thankfully there actually is an answer here.  Put the Book Project in an underutilized OUSD school.  This will help kids, help the non- profit and help the community.

West Oakland has 11 sites listed in the OUSD Blueprint advisory background document, 8 of those are underutilized and only Glenview is over-utilized.  And Lord knows we need better literacy development in the West, and to invest in our youth there.

The program needs space for roughly 20,000 books, and they actually can pay a nominal rent.

We need to break down the walls between community and schools.  In a time when space is at a premium and some schools actually have excess space to house non profits and support services, we need to figure out how to better integrate services. This is a great opportunity, if we take it, not a crisis.

“We’re Blessed to Have this Pace”

The Book Center has been doing powerful work in Oakland for years, and we need to keep it.  According to the article in the East Bay Express

The children she (the founder) works with may not know where their next meal will come from or where they’ll be staying that night, she said, but they’ll always have the books that she gives them.

“When I tell them, ‘Hey, do you want a book to take home?’ their little faces light up,” Alfaro said. “If they’re in the homeless shelter, they’ll have that book with them.”

East Bay Children’s Book Project has been providing that sense of stability to children since it began in 2005. To date, it has provided more than 1.6 million books for teachers, social workers, pediatricians, and others to give away to low-income children.

And the reviews from educators speak for themselves, again from the Express

Linda Grayson, a special education teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary school, said that many of the students she teaches have never owned their own book before. She lets them pick one out every Thursday to build their personal libraries…

Second grade teachers Jaine Kopp and Judy Washington, who work at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, know what that loss would look like. Taking home books is the highlight of some of their students’ weeks — and books from East Bay Children’s Book project have been there to comfort them in tough times.

When one child’s father passed away, Kopp said, the class read Badger’s Parting Gifts –– the story of a badger who leaves presents to all his friends to remember him by after he dies. After they read it, Kopp said, the students were moved and all shared something emotional for them.

“We’re blessed to have this place,” Washington said.

“There’s nothing like this anywhere,” Kopp added

Building on what Kopp said, if we lose this it’s gone.  And we can’t afford that.

Oakland Needs to do More with Less

The only way we will poise the district for success is rethinking the way it does business.  The new superintendent has echoed that sentiment.  Any astute observer sees that Oakland’s problems are structural.  No tinkering on the edges will really fix them.  But we do have a whole set of community assets that we underutilize.  We need to think about how we re-order our education system and connect it with the community and community needs.  We also owe the West a greater investment in its children.

Saving the Oakland Book Center is a win-win for the schools and community, I hope we can break out of our malaise and make this happen.  The community deserves better.

What do you think?

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