English teacher on a mission to spread ‘book wealth’

By Beccah Hendrickson

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LINDENWOLD, New Jersey (WPVI) – A South Jersey teacher is changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in his community by giving them books.

Larry Abrams, an English teacher at Lindenwold High School, started the nonprofit “Book Smiles” to donate gently used books to anyone who doesn’t have access to them.

“If they’re reading at the level by the time they’re in 4th grade, they’re going to be successful academically,” said Abrams, who is on a mission to spread what he calls “the wealth of books.”

“It’s a term we coined and it’s an appropriate term because we need to start looking at used books as a commodity,” he said.

It’s an idea he had been thinking about for years, since he had a student who was also a mother who had no books for her baby.

“You have kids on the other side who don’t have books growing up,” he told his senior project class of his nonprofit.

Three years ago, he began building the nonprofit, which expanded to a 4,000 square foot warehouse in Pennsauken.

“It’s a place where people donate their books in the tens of thousands,” he said of the space.

The association has collected and redistributed nearly one million children’s books.

“We reap the wealth of the book. Instead of spending a lot of money on books, people donate them to us. This way we can reduce our costs and we can give them to children in need,” he said.

Many donations come from hand-painted trash cans. The team has nearly 100 in South Jersey and greater Philadelphia, where people can just open the lid and drop the books.

“Little by little, we are putting books into the hands of children and babies who may not have many at home,” he said.

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