Inspiring to Read

By Judy Kahn


The Children’s Book Project is celebrating its 25th anniversary.


To date, the non-profit organization has given away more than two million free

books to facilities, programs and professions that serve children. Literacy materials

are also distributed to support teachers and other professionals.


The Children’s Book Project, located on 43rd Avenue in the Outer Sunset District, is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Since 1992, it has given more than two million free books to children and facilities that use them. In the photo above, Kathleen
Wydler (left to right), Melanie Mickelson and Jessica Sandler hold the Children’s Book Project sign. Photos: Philip Liborio Gangi.

The organization is located in the Outer Sunset District at 1360 43rd Ave., which was

once the home of the Francis Scott Key Elementary School.


In 1992, Vicki Pollack, a reading specialist, noticed many parents in underserved

communities could not afford books. Recognizing a need, she began collecting

and giving away children’s books from the basement of her Bernal Heights home. The

organization moved four times before ending up at its present location.


The mission of the organization is to build literacy by bringing free books to children

who need them. Through the organization, books are given to public schools, librarians,

teachers, community centers, outreach programs, public health care facilities,

child care centers, preschools and homeless shelters.


In its continuing effort to improve literacy in the electronic age, it also offers a read

aloud program which provides a platform for sharing best practices in building parent

literacy engagement with children at early ages.


Social workers, nurses, pediatricians and other professionals are

trained to help parents read to their children. Books are for all ages (elementary,

middle and high schools), and there are resource books as well.


Books given away are new, old and of high quality.


One online reviewer said: “It’s a definite must for any teacher or anybody who works

with kids to know about the Children’s Book Project.”


Lyanne Melendez, a journalist at ABC television, said: “These days, so much attention is

on electronics. But there’s no substitute for a book, especially for a

young mind. Too many kids don’t have enough books to read.”


Summer intern Jessica Sandler (left to right) and site managers
Kathleen Wydler and Melanie Mickelson stand in front of some of
the books at the Children’s Book Project.

Funds for the Children’s Book Project are raised in a variety of

ways, including by concerned individuals and small grants. Both

ABC and Disney have collaborated with the non-profit organization

by donating 5,000 books.


The book project is much appreciated by educators and others who are concerned about

childhood literacy. Ryan Traynor, a sophomore at St. Francis High School, collected

25,000 books for kids in a book drive and created a youth literacy council.


Heather Dabney, a teacher, came from a town south of Modesto to get books for children.


“When students are reading at a second to third grade level, we definitely want to give

them a chance to have books that are at their level so we can increase

their reading ability,” Dabney said.


The Children’s Book Project hopes to encourage other concerned

individuals to establish organizations like theirs, such as in Oakland, where there is the

East Bay Children’s Book Project.


Jessy Sandler, who is now attending the University of San Francisco, majoring in English

with a minor in journalism, started as an intern at the Children’s Book Project in January.

An avid reader and aspiring writer, Sandler enjoys working with teachers who come to

collect books.


“The biggest fault in reading/writing education is the lack of resources available to public

schools,” Sandler said. She thinks there is an urgent need for reading materials to be

available in public schools.


“Teachers get excited when they find a book about ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Frozen’ because they

know the kids will really want to engage with those materials since

it’s something they are familiar with and are already excited about.


“We expect teachers to prepare students for the 21st century while they are working

with resources from the 20th century.”


The Children’s Book Project’s hours are Monday and Thursday, from 3:30-6 p.m.;

Wednesday, 10 a.m.-noon; and, the first Saturday of every month, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.


To donate or select books, stop by 1360 43rd Ave. Also, books and monetary donations

can be sent to: 3433 21st St., SF, CA 94110.


To learn more about the Children’s Book Project, call (415) 665-6315 or 

visit the website at

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