Access Books Brings Thousands of Books to L.A Care and Blue Shield of California Promise HealthPlans’ Community Resource Centers Across L.A. County
Los Angeles-based author Jennifer Torres joined children and families at a community celebration in Lynwood to kick-off mini library unveilings
LOS ANGELES (August 3, 2022) – Today, Access Books unveiled the first English-and Spanish-language mini library at L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise’s Community Resource Center (CRC) in Lynwood, the first of seven small libraries planned for this year that will give L.A. County children and their families access to thousands of brand new, high-quality books during their visits to the centers.
“Literacy is instrumental in building a healthy and informed community, which is why Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan is honored to help young readers and their families across Los Angeles County have greater access to books,” said James Cruz, M.D., chief medical officer at Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan. “This project helps ensure that local children can select from dozens of books in English and Spanish to read to improve their literacy, while also taking advantage of the other resources available at their local Community Resource Centers.”
As part of their mission to help improve the lives of residents across L.A. County, L.A. Care and Blue Shield Promise Community Resource Centers have provided $65,000 to Access Books to assist with the creation of mini libraries, and cover the cost of initial books for the mini libraries and additional books that will be given away to local families. The first phase will create seven mini libraries to help support existing family literacy programs and children’s activities at CRCs in Lynwood, Metro L.A. (Koreatown), El Monte, Inglewood, Norwalk, Pomona and Palmdale, bringing a total of 6,200 brand new books in both English and Spanish to children, encouraging them to explore stories in more than one language. Once the first phase for these seven centers is completed this year, work will begin to provide similar book collections and other special, literacy-focused events to the remainder of the seven CRCs.
“While many children have fallen behind academically during the pandemic, we are encouraged that making age and culturally appropriate books accessible for young students may help to boost literacy and language skills,” said L.A. Care CEO John Baackes. “The curated book collections are an investment to empower children with skills that will increase their chances of long-term school success, which may translate to brighter futures.”
To help launch the creation of these mini libraries, the CRC in Lynwood held a community celebration where children and families met Los Angeles-based children’s book author Jennifer Torres and received a free copy of her newly released book, Carolina Incognito, and a tote filled with seven brand-new books to take home.
Access Books is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that has been transforming public school and community libraries in historically underserved neighborhoods for over 20 years. To date, the trusted and volunteer-run organization has renovated more than 300 public school libraries and donated over two million books. Every year, Access Books also partners with award-winning children’s book writers, talented illustrators, and inspiring personalities on special events that encourage young readers in Los Angeles to see themselves as the storytellers of today and tomorrow.
“No matter where they live, every child deserves access to high-quality books and the popular titles they love to read. We also know that books make a world of difference for students in the classroom and that stories can also be a refuge and source of emotional support,” said Founder of Access Books Doctor Rebecca Constantino. “We’re excited to be advancing this project with L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise’s Community Resource Centers so that more children, youth and families across Greater Los Angeles can dive into stories that will bring them joy.”
The L.A. Care and Blue Shield Promise CRCs offer a range of free classes, programs, and services that aim to improve the health and well-being of their members and surrounding communities, which includes addressing social needs. To learn more about the CRCs, visit activehealthyinformed.org.
Follow Access Books’ on Instagram at @AccessBooksCa and on Facebook here to support their mission to provide all children, no matter where they live, access to new high-quality books.
About Access Books
Access Books is a nonprofit organization that provides books to underserved schools where at least 90 percent of students live at or below the poverty line. Working on behalf of students, dedicated school principals and library aides since 1999, Access Books is a volunteer-driven organization that has refurbished over 300 libraries and donated more than two million books. Each year, approximately 20,000 pre-kindergarten through middle school-aged children participate in its program which in addition to library renovations includes special author visits.
About Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan
Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan is a managed care organization, wholly owned by Blue Shield of California, offering Medi-Cal and Cal MediConnect. It is led by healthcare professionals with a "members-first" philosophy and committed to building a quality network of providers and partnering with community organizations for more than 450,000 members. For more information about Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan, please visit www.blueshieldca.com/promise. For more news about Blue Shield of California, please visit news.blueshieldca.com. Or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
About L.A. Care Health Plan
L.A. Care Health Plan serves more than 2.5 million members in Los Angeles County, making it the largest publicly operated health plan in the country. L.A. Care offers four health coverage plans including Medi-Cal, L.A. Care Covered™, L.A. Care Cal MediConnect and the PASC-SEIU Homecare Workers Plan, all dedicated to being accountable and responsive to members. As a public entity, L.A. Care’s mission is to provide access to quality health care for L.A. County's vulnerable and low-income communities, and to support the safety net required to achieve that purpose. L.A. Care prioritizes quality, access and inclusion, elevating health care for all of L.A. County. For more information, visit lacare.org or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Access Books contact: Nadia Gonzalez, email@example.com and 310-409-8931
L.A. Care contact: Penny Griego, firstname.lastname@example.org and 310-613-8309
Blue Shield Promise contact: Olga Gallardo, email@example.com and 323-537-6346
Watch as Access Books and volunteers create brand new libraries at two Compton schools: Compton Early College and Longfellow Elementary. Videos by McKenna Thurber.
Watch Access Books in action at Carver Elementary. In the span of a few hours, we took this library from zero books to thousands.
In response to COVID-19, schools across Los Angeles will remain closed through the end of the academic year. In the best of times, children in the communities we serve have very limited access to books. These are not the best of times.
Access Books and The Book Foundation have launched a campaign to secure thousands of new, high-quality books for all grade levels that will help with student learning activities as well as books with themes that will bring readers some measure of joy and comfort.
This donation is critical. Recently, a principal at a South Los Angeles elementary school wrote to let us know what a book donation would mean for her students:
"Now, more than ever, our students need access to books. In many of the communities we serve, the only books children have are the books our schools provide for them. With schools closed, our students are missing out on the opportunity to have rich literary experiences. Most of our families also do not have access to technology, so there is no platform for access. Books donated to students would greatly help schools in our efforts to continue the learning at home and to provide our students with the literary experiences they deserve."
Books purchased through this campaign will go directly to high-need students across Los Angeles County and students served by select Los Angeles Unified School District Grab-and-Go centers located in underserved communities.
Help us reach our goal of $50,000. Text (844) 618-0582 and type "give" or donate below – 100% of the proceeds will be used to buy new books for children.
We are also seeking volunteers for book distribution sites. Click below to see opportunities currently available.
In addition to cash donations, we are accepting new and gently used books appropriate for grades K-9 (no adult books). These books are for pleasure reading -- absolutely no textbooks, encyclopedias, or activity books. Additional guidelines:
Our superstar "Artist in Residence" and longtime volunteer, Claire Freedman, made this video showcasing our murals. She's such a visionary and asset to our organization. Thanks for your years of service, Claire!
Access Books partnered with the LA Times to create this bilingual guide for parents and educators.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the largest book and storytelling festival in the country, has announced Access Books as its official charitable partner. The Times is challenging readers and festival-goers to help Access Books raise $100,000 to fund the transformation of at least four school libraries in underserved communities in Los Angeles. The Times’ Reading by 9 fund will match all donations up to $100,000. Access Books will update the libraries to create more comfortable and welcoming environments, as well as paint murals and provide new books and supplies.
Research shows that the best predictor of reading ability is access to books, and when it comes to schools serving communities with high poverty rates, having a quality library for students is especially important.
Access Books is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to transforming school libraries in Los Angeles’ most underserved neighborhoods. Each library served receives thousands of new, quality books, a new coat of paint, and dozens of literacy-themed murals that make the library more inviting. This year, Access Books is excited to celebrate the transformation of our 300th library and 1.7 million books given!
The Los Angeles Times and Access Books will work together on a variety of literacy-themed events throughout the year associated with Reading by 9, including the annual reading guide. The Los Angeles Times and Access Books will focus their partnership on increasing literacy among children by funding the purchase of new books and refurbishing more school libraries in communities that need it most.
Access Books is working in Puerto Rico on April 8th & 9th, 2019! As you know, the need for quality books and libraries is not isolated to California. We are partnering with the San Felipe Humanitarian Alliance, a California based family foundation, and a local organization in Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Rise Up, to refurbish two school libraries. If funding permits, we will provide books for a local Boys’ and Girls’ Club.
After Hurricane Maria, Escuela Inés María Mendoza became a receptor school, which means it absorbed students from schools unable to open after the hurricane. It is located in a low-income community in the metropolitan area of Puerto Rico, approximately 30 minutes from Old San Juan. It currently has over 1000 students from 18 months old, PK, and K-12. It has the highest number of enrolled children and serves an area with 93% of the families under the poverty level. Before the hurricane they did not have enough books. Now the need is more urgent than ever.
Escuela Francisco Jordán serves grades K-9 and is located in the mountain community of Utuado, which was devastated during Hurricane Maria. This school has become central to the community, absorbing three additional schools and serving as a local hub for a range of resources. The effects of the hurricane are still ever present.
Boys and Girls Club de Arecibo is one of the few places children can go in their under-resourced area. The Club serves children from 7-14 years old, but has few books. We would like to put in shelving, paint a mural, and provide age appropriate books.
Please consider donating to support Puerto Rico's struggling school libraries -- 100% of funds raised will be used to purchase books.
Other Ways to Help
Donate plane tickets for our muralists. United, Jet Blue, and Southwest fly to San Juan. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange.
JOIN US!!! You will see urban Puerto Rico as well as the rain forest mountain area. We will work on Monday, April 8th and Tuesday, April 9th. If we are able, we will also spend a day at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club.
You are responsible for transportation to San Juan. Housing will be arranged with local families for the days we are working at the schools. Puerto Rico Rise Up will also help find affordable lodging if you would like to stay extra days. There are plenty of hotel rooms in San Juan. Please email email@example.com if you are interested in volunteering. All volunteers will sign a liability sheet for the days we are working.
Big thanks to LA librería, an LA-based Spanish language book company that will be donating books to support this cause!
Watch an interview with AB's founder, Rebecca Constantino, as the library at Aldama Elementary in Highland Park is transformed.