Ambassador Gil Kuzo Rutazihana’s Books4Buddies global experience:

“Little things make big impacts in any children’s life. A book may seem to have little value for most of the people but as a young African boy, I know the value of a simple book. Books4buddies was one of the GREATEST CHANCES I had to work towards promoting literacy around my host community and now to the world, back home.

I shared how education was a fundamental part on making me the man I am today and how people have to remember that the base of a good life, is an excellent education. 

I also found in Books4buddies amazing young men who helped me integrate and understand more easily the differences between my culture and the American culture.

The most admirable qualities of American youth are never giving up on their dreams and hard work to get what they deserve. No matter how hard it looks like, how far they still have to go, they don’t give up, but find new and creative ways to achieve their dreams!

Those are the things I took and made part of my day to day life.”

Gil, recently accepted into med school, says re Books4buddies: “I think from last year, we should get more high schoolers involved in the program to see the world from a different perspective.”

John S. Scott playwright inducted in Toledo-Lucas County Public Library’s Toledoana Collection


When Toledo native John S. Scott looked out into the audience of the first New York play he’d written only six people stared back.

In some ways he was Tyler Perry decades before Tyler Perry came along, starting from an unlikely background and fueled by a love of storytelling – and a desire to create more provocative black characters than Madea.

Read the full article here:

The Journal - Ohio Reading Initiatives

As part of PBS’ Great American Read, this episode of “The Journal” focuses on locals who are advancing the value of reading in Northwest Ohio. Discussion includes the Books 4 Buddies program and community reading initiatives involving Bowling Green State University and the Wood County District Libraries. Also, a father and daughter talk about how reading has shaped their relationship and lives.

Books 4 Buddies interview starts at 18:06.

Books4Buddies Holds Back to School Events

Original article posted in The Sojourner’s Truth - Sojourner’s Truth Staff

On Saturday, August 11, Books4Buddies held their annual back-to-school event at Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Birmingham Terrace in order to bring free books and snacks to the residents. The “Book Ambassadors” – the students who coordinate the book program – and founder Laneta Goings were joined by members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc; TPS Superintendent Romules Durant, EdD; Rev. Cedric Brock, pastor of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church and Dr. Amira Gohara, MD, immunopathology specialist and former president of the Medical College of Ohio (now the University of Toledo Medical College).

Books 4 Buddies is an organization that collects new and gently used books for disadvantaged children and young adults. Over the years, Books 4 Buddies have distributed more than 70,000 books all around northwest Ohio and the world.

In fact, the Book Ambassadors are also from all around the world. This year there are about two dozen ambassadors and three are from other countries – Muhamad Abdallah from Egypt (Sylvania Southview), Blaise Roudet-Milhau from France (Toledo School for the Arts) and Muhammad Tariq from Pakistan (Scott High School).

2018 Books and Hooks was a success.

We had another successful Books and Hooks event this year at Weiler Homes. Here are a few images from the event. Thanks to all our volunteers and to all that came out to participate.

Facts are what ignites author & illustrator Don Tate’s imagination

Original article posted in - David Dupont


Perry Field House at Bowling Green State University Saturday hosted scores of future Don Tates.

Tate, a prolific illustrator of children’s books who has turned his talents to writing as well, was the guest author for Literacy in the Park.

The Austin, Texas-based author and illustrator started out just like all the kids who raised their hands when he asked: Who likes to draw?

He’s been drawing since before he could remember, and showed a picture he made when he was 3 of his mother, and baby sister, and some poop falling out of the infant’s diaper.

Construction activity with the Wood County District Public Library

Construction activity with the Wood County District Public Library

Even then, he liked to include realistic details.

When he was a kid growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, Tate said he particularly liked non-fiction, including the “Family Medical Guide,” which had pictures of bloody ulcers and pus-filled toe sores.

And when he turned to writing his own books, as well as illustrating them, he turned to non-fiction, writing about strongman Eugen Sandow and early African-American poet George Moses Horton.

Those themes were among those reflected in the dozens of activities available to children throughout the field house.

Nothing, though, about pus or bloody sores.

Still the activities showed how literacy is intertwined with construction, natural science, art, drama, and nutrition.

Tate encouraged his young listeners to follow what they loved whether it was dancing, theater, or soccer.

Tate said as a child he wasn’t as good at basketball as his father would have liked. He instead wanted to make puppets. He realized he could make a simple puppet with patterns and cloth. He wasn’t satisfied. Using an old wig his mother gave him, he made a more elaborate puppet modeled on the Muppets made by his idol Jim Henson.

His mother loved it, but Tate’s father wasn’t impressed. “Your son is making dolls,” he told Tate’s mother.

Young Tate persisted drawing, painting, doing macramé.

His work progressed along the way and led to a career in illustration. He’s illustrated more than 50 books, including work by such notable writers as Jack Prelutsky and Louis Sachar.

Therapy dogs

Therapy dogs

When he decided to write a book, he did about 30 drafts of “It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw.” It’s a true story of a man, born into slavery, who became a renowned folk artist. Then he showed it to a published author, who loved it, and told him it needed to be rewritten. That happened twice more. But every time he rewrote it, the book got better, Tate said. A published book doesn’t just happen.

When it was published, it was a success and won awards.

His book on the strongman Sandow, considered the father of modern body building, was also based on fact as well as the author’s personal experience. As an adult, Tate decided to take up body building, and despite early disappointment, he went on to win trophies.

Tim Murnen, BGSU faculty member coordinating the event, said bringing in Tate was a bit of a risk. He doesn’t have the name recognition of past guest authors. But he took a different path to a career in children’s literature. He went to a trade school for high school and then community college. It was a story he shared Friday with students at Penta Career Center.

Murnen does literacy research and outreach. Literacy in the park is a keynote event for those outreach efforts, but it is not sufficient. The event is meant to send ripples throughout Northwest Ohio and promote programs throughout the year.

One such program is Books4Buddies (

The Holland-based endeavor was founded in 2012 by Laneta Goings and her grandson. He, like many boys, had problems with literacy. Every night he had to do his homework and read. “Literacy seems to be a problem especially with boys,” she said. “We spend a lot of time trying to encourage boys to read.”

They do that by recruiting young high school age men to help collect and distribute “gently used” books.

The effort has distributed more than 50,000 books.

The Books for Buddies ambassadors have come from local neighborhoods, but also from Ghana, Senegal, and Pakistan, and those ambassadors want to bring that effort to their countries.

The 25 ambassadors, she said, consider themselves “a brotherhood.”

Literacy in the Park is a good event for the effort. They understand they “are blessed” to be able to share with others what they have benefited from.

For all the good intentions and serious purpose behind the day, it is about having fun, whether with Play-Doh or finding the hidden sugar in foods.

Joe Rosansky was there with his daughter Teagan, who is, she indicated, four-fingers old.

This is the second year the family has participated. “Our daughter really likes it,” Teagan’s dad said. “She likes the books and all the activities.”

Teagan reports she likes, after a long pause, “the flowers.” Those flowers were lining the front of the stage.

And when Tate opened the floor up to questions after his presentation, the first question was: “Where’d you get the flowers?

Bostdorff’s, Murnen said from off-stage.

That’s just the kind of detail a young Don Tate would have liked. The kind of attention to detail that can blossom in so many ways.

Chick-fil-A set to open new location after Labor Day

Original article posted on - WTVG


SYLVANIA TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WTVG) - Chick-fil-A is set to launch its newest location in Sylvania just after Labor Day. The new restaurant is scheduled to open its doors on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017.

The grand opening celebration includes the chance for 100 adults to camp out, earning themselves a one-year supply of chicken for free. Participants will also help package 10,000 meals to benefit the Toledo Seagate Food Bank. People can also donate new and gently used children's book that will be given to Books 4 Buddies, which provides books to children in our community.

The grand opening celebration starts 24 hours before the store opens its doors. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, the family-friendly overnight camp out begins. The first 100 adults through the door get one year's worth of free Chick-fil-A meals. For rules about eligibility, click the "Opening Celebration" link on this page.

Franchise Owner Justin Amburgey currently operates the Airport Highway location in Holland. The new store is located northeast corner of Central Ave. and McCord Rd. It will create 100 new, full and part time jobs. For more information on how to apply, click the "Hiring Information" link on this page.

Chick-fil-A has been named one of the "best places to work" by Glassdoor. The company also offers the opportunity to earn college scholarships..

Chick-fil-A team members are also eligible for the chain's initiative, Remarkable Futures, which provides $4.9 million in annual scholarships. Having awarded nearly $38 million since 1973, scholarships are available in three categories, ranging from $2,500 to $25,000, based on leadership, community involvement and academic achievement. Over the years, the restaurant company, which employs more than 75,000 individuals through both corporate positions and franchised locations, has provided almost $38 million to help its team members pay for college.

"We're honored to be recognized as a top workplace and know that team members will find the same opportunities for growth and leadership at our new location at Central and McCord," said Amburgey. "We encourage community members who are passionate about serving the freshest food in a friendly environment to interview to join our team."

Books4Buddies Holds Back to School Events

Original article posted in The Sojourner’s Truth - Sojourner’s Truth Staff

L-R Paul Thomas, Jr., Jr/Southview who just returned after being selected in a weeklong entrepreneurship training program for high school students; Co-founder Toure McCord; Laneta Goings; Congresswoman Kaptur; Jordan Topoleski, Sr, Sylvania Southview. He was one of 1250 at Boys Nation selected as one of two senators to represent Ohio. He was in DC for nine days and met elected officials; Paul Thomas, Sr. retired executive of the Carpenters Union.

L-R Paul Thomas, Jr., Jr/Southview who just returned after being selected in a weeklong entrepreneurship training program for high school students; Co-founder Toure McCord; Laneta Goings; Congresswoman Kaptur; Jordan Topoleski, Sr, Sylvania Southview. He was one of 1250 at Boys Nation selected as one of two senators to represent Ohio. He was in DC for nine days and met elected officials; Paul Thomas, Sr. retired executive of the Carpenters Union.

On Saturday, August 12, Books4Buddies held a back-to-school event at Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Birmingham Terrace in order to bring free books and snacks to the residents. The “Book Ambassadors” – the students who coordinate the book program – were joined by members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc and State Rep. Mike Sheehy.

Books 4 Buddies is an organization that collects new and gently used books for disadvantaged children and young adults. Over the years, Books 4 Buddies have distributed more than 40,000 books all around northwest Ohio and the world.


On Monday August 14, founder Laneta Goings and the ambassadors met with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, a Books4Buddies supporter. “ I don't think there's another program of this kind in the country, correct me if I'm wrong,” noted Kaptur.

Book4Buddies Ambassador Heading to Boys Nation.

Jordan Topoleski, an incoming senior at Sylvania Southview High School, has been selected as a senator for American Legion Boys Nation in the Washington, D.C. area, July 21-28.

Boys Nation is an annual American Legion program that includes civic training, leadership development and a focus on Americanism. Topoleski was appointed the Governor’s Chief of Staff at Ohio Boys State which had roughly 1,200 participants. Topoleski will be joined by Weston Lindner of Lakota East High School in representing Ohio at Boys Nation.

At Sylvania Southview, Topoleski has served as Student Body President and Student Ambassador; other activities include Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Freshman Orientation Leader, Dance for a Chance, student volunteer organization Interact, Books4Buddies, Speech and Debate and National Honor Society. Honors include the 2017 Youth Jefferson Award, Books4Buddies Extra Mile Service Award, Cougar of the Week, Pride of the Pack, Speech and Debate State Qualifier, Baseball and Basketball Team Captain and 12 straight quarters of High Honor Roll. Topoleski, a resident of Sylvania, hopes to attend Georgetown University as he considers becoming a lawyer or politician.

To arrange an interview with Topoleski, contact Andy Proffet at

About Boys Nation:

During their eight days at Boys Nation, 98 senators (two from each state with the exception of Hawaii) will learn from a hands-on approach how the U.S. Senate and the federal government function. Boys are divided into two political parties, the Federalists and the Nationalists, each of which conducts a party convention, sets a platform and nominates members for elected offices, including Boys Nation president, vice president and party leaders. Each senator will also write, introduce and debate a bill of his choosing before an appropriate Senate committee, and if successful at that level the legislation will be voted on by the whole Senate. Bills passing the Senate are later signed or vetoed by the Boys Nation president.

The young men will also have an opportunity to tour the National Mall, including the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Wall and Korean War Memorial. They will also present a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, see the Iwo Jima Memorial and visit Capitol Hill for meetings with their state’s U.S. senators. They may have the opportunity to visit the Pentagon and the White House as well. In addition, delegates will attend a dinner at a nearby Legion post hosted by National Commander Charles Schmidt of Oregon.

This year’s crop of Boys Nation senators represent the finest of nearly 20,000 incoming seniors who attended the 49 annual Boys State programs. Famous Boys Nation alumni include former President Bill Clinton, actor Donal Logue, Govs. Chris Christie and Scott Walker, and Sens. Mike Lee and Tom Cotton. Notable Boys State alumni include Tom Brokaw, Michael Jordan, Rush Limbaugh, Jon Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Neil Armstrong, Roger Ebert and Justice Samuel Alito.

OHHS Students Collect 1,400 Books For Underprivileged Children

Original article posted in The Village Voice of Ottawa Hills - Waverly Hart

Ottawa Hills High School students Donavan Bridges and Jonathon Dolsey don’t even have their driver’s licenses yet, but they are already two exceptional ambassadors for Ottawa Hills.

The duo are ambassadors with the Books 4 Buddies program, a diverse group of 23 boys from a number of Toledo-area public and private high schools.

Books 4 Buddies is a non-profit organization, which promotes and encourages literacy in disadvantaged youth, especially boys, throughout Toledo. Ambassadors go to underprivileged areas and give books to 4- to 7-year-old boys who don’t have access to reading materials.

Bridges and Dolsey recently organized a book drive that collected more than 1,400 books from the Ottawa Hills Elementary, Junior High, and High Schools and other donors.

Books 4 Buddies (B4B) was founded in 2012, by Laneta Goings, when, after an interaction with her grandson, she realized many young boys struggled with reading comprehension.

“It all started on the premise of, when my grandson was in the third grade, his mom said, ‘Do your homework.’ And he said, ‘I can read the words, but I don’t understand what I’m reading,’” Goings said. His comment sparked the idea for B4B, and the initiative has evolved and grown ever since.

“I think the uniqueness of our program, although there are a lot of literacy programs, is the fact that we have these amazing young men. They go to public and private high schools, they have the book drives, they interact with kids, and I think the cool thing is that when we go to the under-served communities, we meet them where they live, and the boys lock eyes with them, and it’s like they speak their own language … as role models and mentors they’re just doing
some amazing things,” Goings said.

Not only is B4B helping to promote literacy in disadvantaged youth, but the ambassadors, who already have easy access to books, are expanding the scope of what they know, which gives them a greater appreciation of the things they have at home.

“Coming from Ottawa Hills, you kind of think it’s just your little bubble, but going out and helping people from inner-city Toledo is a really cool thing, because you’re getting to know other people from different situations,” Bridges says.

Christopher Smith, Lead Mentor of the B4B Ambassadors, believes that the program greatly benefits the young men who participate.

“We say ‘Once an ambassador, always an ambassador.’ We’re developing future community leaders … When we can get other people to care about something other than themselves, they care about their school, they care about their community, they care about the world,” Smith says.

Organizers hope to see B4B continue to expand. This past year, B4B had an ambassador from Ghana who was studying abroad at Scott High School. He is planning to bring a Books 4 Buddies program to Ghana when he returns.

Additionally, Bridges and Dolsey would like to see more participation from Ottawa Hills students. Both of them encourage Ottawa Hills boys to look into becoming an ambassador because they have resources and can reach more people than other young men.

The B4B program will continue to do book drives and provide reading materials to underprivileged youth throughout the Toledo area. For more information, visit:

Lartey Abdul Rafiq - Books 4 Buddies Ambassador - Ghana (KL-YES/ACES)



My name is Abdul Rafiq Lartey. I am 17 years old. I am an exchange student under the Kennedy Lugar Youth and Exchange Studies and American Cultural Exchange Service (ACES). I have participated in many volunteering services throughout my stay in the United States, however, one volunteering organization caught my attention and has so far won exceptional love and favour in my heart. I heard about Books4Buddies through my friend, Birama Ndiaye from Senegal, who became an ambassador before me. My interest in the organization led me to meet the co-founder Mrs. Laneta Goings. I told her about my interest in the organization and my intention to hopefully become an ambassador, just as my friend from Senegal was. I was accepted that same day and immediately started serving with Books4Buddies as an AMBASSADOR. It has been 10 months since I became an exchange student and Books4Buddies played a major role in my growth and leadership qualities today. I have enjoyed every moment of being part of this organization not just because of my interest in it, but also because of the level of service it offers to humanity. It has definitely been a blessing to be part of this organization.

Martin Luther King Drum Major for Freedom Scholarship Breakfast

I had the opportunity to attend the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Martin Luther King Drum Major for Freedom Scholarship Breakfast in Perrysburg, Ohio earlier this year in January (2017). Actually, that was the first day I officially met Mrs. Laneta Goings. At the breakfast, I got to hear the Black National Anthem, “Lift every voice and sing,” being sung in my case for the first time. It was a wonderful experience for me because I got to learn more about the several struggles the African Americans have gone through. It had a positive impact on me because there were a lot of motivational speeches by various men and women. I met very inspirational people like Ms. Rhonda Sewell who spoke personally to me and inspired me to achieve as much as I could. In addition, I got the opportunity to read the profiles of some determined students who were awarded scholarships because of their determination, talent and hard work. As of now, when I reflect back on the experience at the breakfast, I feel very fortunate because I have more experience and knowledge now and I understand more, its importance.

Speaking to Raymer Elementary School Pupils on The Importance of Education

On January 27, 2017, I had the opportunity to speak to a few classes at Raymer Elementary School about the importance of education and encourage the students to take their studies very seriously. I spoke alongside Birama Ndiaye from Senegal and Cheran Lyle, who attends Bowsher in Toledo, OH. I personally have had a deep understanding with education based on my experiences as a Ghanaian student. I am very much aware of the importance of education and its benefits, because I wouldn’t be here in America without education in the first place. I was very elated at the offer to speak to these young leaders and to inspire them to push hard and achieve their goals in life. I was nervous at first to speak to the students but I had to overcome the nervousness due to the realization of the importance of me sharing my experience with them. I knew even before I had began speaking that they would be astonished by how my school life was in Ghana. I was very honored to speak because the TPS superintendent Dr. Romules Durant was present in the classroom. As I spoke, there was complete silence in the room.  The students were very attentive. They kept asking so many interesting questions about how education is in Ghana. In addition to speaking on the importance of education, I also encouraged the students to keep focused and make use of the facilities available to them here in America. I told them about how much it saddened me when I saw students here not taking advantage of the better educational facilities available to them because I knew how it was to study theoretically and not practically.

The staff at the school treated us very well and snacks were provided for us which I really appreciated. It was a wonderful day to me and the experience was one that definitely helped me improve on my public speaking and leadership skills. I will be forever grateful to Books4Buddies for choosing me and Birama to speak to these young leaders whom the future world will depend on. 

Angela Davis Black History Month Celebration

Thanks to Mrs. Laneta Goings, I had the chance to participate in the Black History Month celebration and soul food luncheon at the University of Toledo, where I met the Civil Rights Activist, Angela Yvonne Davis. I was blessed with the opportunity to listen to her speech. I learned so much from her speech. I realised that I knew nothing during and after her speech. She hammered so much onevents pertaining to racism and police brutality. She also talked on her experiences as a Civil Rights Activist. She spoke so passionately and emotionally and I realised  she had been through so many tough times, and to meet and listen to such a survivor made me feel very fortunate. I had the opportunity to speak personally with Angela Davis for a short while, and she was a wonderful person. Everything I learned during this day up to now still inspires me and I believe that her experiences will continue to be an inspiration for me to achieve my goals in life, and to be a contributor to the rise in the status of Africans the world.

Books4buddies, Meet and Greet

I participated in this year’s Books4Buddies, Meet and Greet at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. It was wonderful. I got the chance to meet the other ambassadors. I had originally seen many social media posts of them collecting books and I was astonished by how many books they've collected. I was very eager to meet them due to their tireless efforts in making the organization stand with the prestige it has as of now. I had, still have, and will continue to have maximum respect for them due to their dedication to serving humanity. The meeting was very successful and I was glad once again to have had the chance to share my experiences as a student in Ghana with them. They were very nice people and they were brilliant as well. I hope to keep on working alongside with them even when I go back to Ghana. I received a 'Certificate of Participation' as an exchange student for which I am most grateful. I believe that it is just the beginning, because I have a vision that is going to take Books4Buddies to a whole new level.

I am very happy to have been a part of this organization and I look forward to being a contributing factor to its success. It is my intention to start a chapter of this organization in Ghana and I am hoping all goes well and that can be achieved.  I am a proud representative of this r and I believe, that not only my shirt but my lifestyle, will reflect this organization everywhere I go. Once an AMBASSADOR, always an AMBASSADOR!