I love to read but what I enjoy even more is to share a book with a friend. Sharing and discussing a story is what makes it memorable to me.

As a Girl Scout with Wall Troop 1750, I have learned to be more mindful about the environment by reducing, reusing, and recycling. While embracing these earth-friendly values, I thought, “What if we swapped books with our local Girl Scouts”? My mom and I researched reusing books and came across The Bridge of Books Foundation. Their mission to collect and to donate books to children in New Jersey resonated with me. The notion that some children do not have books of their own was heartrending, so I wanted to help.

We created the book swap so local Girl Scouts could trade books with each other and also collect books for donation. While girls were sharing books that they once loved and now outgrew, they could also get new and interesting books from others. The event was a huge success! We have had hundreds of girls attend the swap and have collected hundreds of books for the Bridge of Books over the last three years. This event has made me a better local and global citizen by helping the environment and increasing my awareness of literacy needs in our community. As a Girl Scout, I have found a way to share my love of books through the Bridge of Books Foundation.

After the initial book swap, I have continued doing  projects with the Bridge of Books Foundation and have even found a way to help during the Coronavirus pandemic. I learned about the increasing hardships children were facing including a lack of access to reading materials because of school and library closures. Also, many families do not have access to the internet creating even more difficulties with virtual learning. Especially during the pandemic, books become even more vital to kids. Books can serve as a window to faraway places so children can escape some of the isolation felt during social distancing. Books can also mirror the lives of children and serve as a tool to see themselves represented. Limitations to learning. Limitations to books. How could I help?

I initiated socially-distant book drives as a part of my Girl Scout Silver Award Project by creating fliers that went into my neighbors’ mailboxes, sending emails on my contact list, and posting on social media pages.  Responses requesting contactless book pickups came flooding in, soon after I spread the word. We designed a contactless pickup procedure which consisted of people leaving a bag or box of books on their doorsteps and then me (with a mask and gloves, of course) collecting them. These books were quarantined in our garage for a period of time and then sorted and packed. Through all of these contactless pickups, I collected over 2,500 books!

A few weeks later, Ms. Abby Daly, the founder of Bridge of Books, arranged a direct donation through the Atlantic City Public Library System. This direct book donation was incredible because it allowed me to see where my books were going.  I learned about the struggles I had heard about first hand from the dedicated volunteers who came to collect the books. This experience filled me with mixed emotions. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride because I helped others and I was melancholy after seeing the magnitude of the need for books in our local communities.

During these uncertain times, people should strive to do their part in making their community a better place. Through the Bridge of Books Foundation, I have found a personally meaningful way to share my love of reading with the community! I don’t know where my love for reading will take me next because it has already brought me to the adventure of the book swap, to my Silver Award project, and most importantly to the Bridge of Books Foundation.