Most of us know where our love of reading began. Whether it was all those bedtime stories, thrilling comic books or the imposed book reports, along the way those characters and words helped form us into who we are today. Can you imagine growing up without being able to escape to the magical world of Narnia? Or, could you have navigated your awkward years without the sage wisdom of Judy Blume’s characters? Sadly, many low income kids in our community are growing up without access to free books or even knowing how to read. What are the results? Statistics show that teenage girls with low literacy are three times more likely to get pregnant. Everyday 3000 students with low literacy are dropping out of school. What can be done to make a difference?
Empowering Teens Through a Love of Reading
Self-proclaimed, “book pusher,” Elizabeth Dragga is changing the course of thousands of young lives with the help of The Book Truck, a non profit organization working to break the cycle of poverty by increasing the literacy rates of foster care and low income kids. More than just providing access to free books, The Book Truck’s mission is to increase literacy skills which leads to building better futures for our youth.
Elizabeth Dragga began The Book Truck by collecting donated books and distributing them from the trunk of her car in 2011. She joined forces with bestselling author Cornelia Funke in 2012. Together they brought literacy programs to 10,000 teens across Los Angeles. The Book Truck holds Literacy Events throughout Los Angeles. The truck is stocked with specially curated books for teens and staffed by trained teen volunteers, who come from all across LA, to help teens find the right books for them.
The program is based on the “Self-Determination Theory,” empowering teens with three things: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Teen volunteers empower others teens with the skills to choose the right book, thus gaining competence. Teens are given the autonomy to choose exactly what they want to read from the book truck. Teens gain a sense of community and relatedness by exchanging ideas with teen volunteers. This unique method turns Teen Literacy events into cool hangouts where ideas are exchanged and reading becomes a social activity.
Making the World Full of Windows of Opportunities
Advisor and contributor, Cornelia Funke has described the positive effects of The Book Truck on teens as providing “windows and doors into their windowless rooms.” The Book Truck website states by helping teens fall in love with reading, literacy becomes their “pathway out of poverty.” The Book Truck has helped many young lives, but one very touching experience was Jonathan’s who was an at risk teen on the verge of dropping out of high school. Although he was a reluctant reader, with the help of a teen volunteer, Jonathan walked away with two books. As he began reading, he felt so connected to the character that he finished the book in one sitting. He followed up his new found love for reading with the second book given to him, and soon after he got himself a library card to access an entire world of books. Reading helped him improve his grades, graduate from high school and attend college. Jonathan now shares his passion for books with his three younger siblings, further spreading the power of books.
The inspiring work of Elizabeth Dragga and The Book Truck are making the world full of windows of opportunities. Find out what you can do to support The Book Truck by getting involved and making a difference in your community.
VOLUNTEER: Teens can volunteer! Apply today.
DONATE: Donate to the Book Truck
Check out The Book Truck’s WISH LIST of most requested titles