miss-new-jersey-2013-cara-mccollum-princetonjpgMiss New Jersey 2013, Cara McCollum, will join The Bridge of Books Foundation and over 30 volunteers to kick off Read Across America and to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday by reading to children in the Keansburg School District.

“Bridge of Books is doing wonderful things throughout the state of New Jersey and I’m honored to be a part of that,” said Miss New Jersey. “Books open a child’s mind to the whole wide world and the opportunities that await them, which is especially important for underprivileged children who might not otherwise be aware of their own potential.”

Bridge of Books and its volunteers read to students in the pre-k through 4th grades in the Keansburg School District each year as part of Read Across America, the National Education Association’s campaign for two weeks of literacy events and awareness. Read Across America begins with the celebration of the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Bridge of Books also makes sure that the students go home with a book or two.

The Bridge of Books mission, however, is to help the entire state of New Jersey. The all-volunteer Foundation has facilitated the distribution of more than 400,000 books both directly to at-risk children and to the agencies that serve them throughout the state. It supports the development of literacy skills by increasing the number of age-appropriate books available to New Jersey’s under-privileged and at-risk children.

“We are thrilled to have so many new readers like Miss New Jersey and returning volunteer readers and to get so many books into the hands of so many kids in such a short period of time. However, our mission is vital and it doesn’t just happen today. Children need access to books 365 days a year,” said Abigail Daly, Director of The Bridge of Books Foundation.

Bridge of Books is a non-profit 501(c)(3), all-volunteer organization. Their mission is to provide an ongoing source of gently used and new books to underprivileged and at-risk children throughout New Jersey in order to support literacy skills and to encourage a love of reading. Good books should never be read just once and Bridge of Books wants to ensure that children have ongoing access to books.

Quoting Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” Miss New Jersey said “’they’ve got brains in their head and feet in their shoes, they can steer themselves any direction they choose.’ I’m a firm believer that if you add a book in the hands of a child to that equation, the possibilities truly are limitless.”

Bridge of Books generally acquires books through book drives and individual donations. Occasionally, they receive overstock books from a publisher or corporate donor. Ms. Daly also said that Bridge of Books will purchase books based on specific requests. For example, a teacher may want to focus on a particular novel with her class or an agency may need books that appeal to teenage boys. She said the Foundation also purchases Spanish and bi-lingual books because they recognize the unique challenges facing children for whom English is a second language.

“Help us write the next chapter in the Bridge of Books,” said Ms. Daly as she explained that the growing Foundation needs help with operating expenses. “In today’s economy and with the number of children living in poverty on the rise, there are many underserved children throughout New Jersey who have no books of their own and, consequently, are falling behind in developing appropriate grade level reading skills. Bridge of Books wants to help.”