26 Feb “My Little Library 2015” – Reflections
By Cindy Gagliano, Bridge of Books Board Member
Like all members on the board of the Bridge of Books Foundation, I am actively involved in all aspects of our mission. My front porch is often filled with bags of books donated by friends, and my car overloaded with books that I have delivered to all parts of the state. Collecting, sorting and delivering books to children who need them is the foundation of our cause, and we are always looking for creative ways to reach children who need books. I have worked on a variety of programs in my years with Bridge of Books, including Read Across America and Teens Talk Books, and it is always rewarding to see the smiling faces of the children who receive our books – to know that what you are doing really does make a difference in a child’s life.
Most recently I oversaw a program launch that was particularly rewarding. This past November we worked with the Division of Children and Family Services to provide books to children being adopted out of foster care in celebration of National Adoption Day. Through the generous support of our sponsors and the hard work of our volunteers, we were able to give 800 children five new books to start their own little library in their new home. We called the program “My Little Library.”
This was a big undertaking as it involved all 21 counties in New Jersey, many different DCF offices, and hundreds of children from months old to age 18. As always for us, it is about the children. We wanted to ensure that every child received books that were age and gender appropriate and that would be relevant and fun to read. This program involved months of work and was often a logistical challenge, but when I was able to sit on the other side for a night and attend an Adoption Day celebration, I was humbled by the people around me, and rewarded to see first-hand the impact of receiving a book to call your own.
I was fortunate to attend an adoption celebration for Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren counties where 70 children joined their new families for a celebration dinner with speeches and entertainment. Our tote bags filled with the new books were there for the children along with a table of new books for siblings to take as well. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect and was a little uncomfortable as I didn’t know anyone. But as the children started to stream in, making a bee-line for the tote bags and books, any discomfort quickly washed away.
I ended up sitting with an older woman named Sandy who along with her husband adopted four young children. I sat with this new family, the younger one fidgeting during the speeches and the older ones reading their books, and was in awe of the people around me: the children and all that they had been through, the loving families adopting these children, and all the people involved in the foster and adoption process who work tirelessly for these children. Providing tote bags of new books could have seemed a small matter in these circumstances, but it wasn’t. The children were so excited and genuinely happy to be given books. The parents were grateful and many quickly started reading with their children, and the caseworkers were thrilled to have help giving gifts to the children.
As I looked around at the children reading, I noticed that Sandy’s oldest daughter barely looked up from one of her new books – a Vet Care book that I added to one of the bags at the last minute. Sandy told me that her daughter was so excited to receive the book because she wanted to become a veterinarian. I could tell from her big smile how much this book meant to her. I left Sandy and her family that night reminded once again that what we do at Bridge of Books is so important and really does make a difference in the lives of children throughout New Jersey.