Abdul Rafiq Lartey - Accra Ghana

Ambassador Abdul Rafiq Lartey helps spread Books 4 Buddies’ message of literacy to Accra, Ghana. Thanks Rafiq for all you do!

The "Ham"

Reprint permission granted by The Blade.

Birmingham Terrace, in East Toledo, was the place to be Wednesday as Books 4 Buddies held a Back to School Block Party that had everyone feeling nothing but good vibes.

The eats, treats and beats, made baking under the hot July sun seem like a cool idea.

Books 4 Buddies doesn't move without its Book Ambassadors.  Three Ambassadors were on hand to  pass out string bags/school supplies, help children select books to read and register them for the raffle giveaway.  Those present were Jon Dolsey, Dorian Meyers and Justin Teamer.

Toledo Public Schools was well represented with employees doing everything from face painting to flipping burgers.  Robert Mendenhall, Curriculum Director for the district, was the grill master extraordinaire and DJ Chad filled the air with oldies but goodies making sure the block party lived up to its name.

Toledo Museum of Art shared information on their Books for Babies program and future exhibits.

Councilman Tyrone Riley generously donated a BMX style bike which was raffled off to the delight of one young man.

Future journalists, Joshua Danforth, covered the event for the Perrysburg Digital Media Club, intervening the Ambassadors and others with the aid of cameraman/mom, Yong.

Contributions from The Blade, The Toledo Lucas County Public Library and LMHA were also instrumental in making this event a success.

But by far the highlight of this block party was the time devoted to reading to the children. Gathered around a circular table, in the center of the grassy area, the interactive nature of the readers pulled the children into the stories.  Their faces and enthusiastic responses indicated the experience was not one sided.  The Ambassadors got things rolling with a Scooby-Doo book and then the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha, led by John Jones, took the activity to another level, making it a joy to witness. It was so motivating that one 9-year-old youngster asked if he could read, showcasing skills worthy of an Ambassador in waiting. 

Back to school never felt so good!!  Before leaving, the kids quickly gathered around the table to pick up lots of books and to get a Books4Buddies string bags filled with school supplies.

Other Books 4 Buddies team members on hand included Co-Founder/President, Laneta Goings, Lead MENtor, Christopher Smith and fellow board members Peter Hildebrandt, Robert Mendenhall, and Richard Jackson.  Thank you also to Dr. Tim Murnen/BGSU for his continued insight and support.

Books 4 Buddies assists Resource Centers International

Books 4 Buddies has donated thousands of books to help Mel Honig and the Resource Centers International spread the gift of learning and literacy throughout the world. To read more about their efforts please read the 2nd quarter news post on their site: https://resourcecentersinternational.org/news-for-quarter-2-2019/

A touching testimonial from Books 4 Buddies ambassador Paul Thomas Jr.

My name is Paul Thomas Jr., and I have been a Books 4 Buddies ambassador for what has now been four years. I’m an admitted and incoming freshman at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and intend on pursuing a Business dual major with a focus in Accounting and Data Analytics.

Throughout my tenure as an ambassador, I was presented with many opportunities unlike anything I’d previously encountered. I’ve been to parts of my hometown I had never stepped foot in, spoke to politicians, authors, and other extraordinary people, represented the program in the local media and have participated in a plethora of community outreach events in which I was able to engage with people previously unknown to me.

I often reflect on how much the program has done, how valuable our work is, and how we’ve contributed to the betterment of a community that has given so much to all of us. I consider all the numbers I’ve been presented, the description of the program and the content of our mission. Yet, my mind always returns to each time I put my orange tee away. How at the end of the day I stop and remember each face I saw, each face that saw me in that t-shirt. I think of all the smiles, the laughter, the joyful tears, and all the minds I opened to a vast wealth of knowledge previously unbeknownst to them, just by giving them something I had been fortunate enough to be surrounded by my entire life.

This program truly enlightened me to the variance of perspectives in the world and in our community, and strengthened my belief in many concepts I now hold dear to my character and embody to the best of my ability each day. Books 4 Buddies opened my eyes to the value of education, the power of literacy, the indelibility of charitable acts, and the fortitude of brotherhood. My work and the work of my fellow ambassadors, the MENtors, and everyone else involved with the program has opened doors to so many young people in our community, and has taught me so many ineradicable lessons that will further my academic and professional careers and my life as a global citizen.

Paul D. Thomas Jr.

International teens share Toledo experiences at library.


Original article posted in The Toledo Blade - Lauren Lindstrom

In a variety of languages but with the same enthusiasm, exchange students from around the world shared their experiences of living in northwest Ohio with an audience at the West Toledo Branch Library on Saturday.

The event was hosted by local literacy nonprofit Books4Buddies and the American Cultural Exchange Service, which places international students in high schools across the United States for an academic year.

Tracee Ellis, a local coordinator with the exchange service, said it forges connections among students of different cultures, faiths, and backgrounds. About 25 to 30 students arrive in the Toledo area in a given year…

Read the full article here: https://www.toledoblade.com/local/community-events/2019/03/30/international-teens-share-toledo-experiences-library-books-culture/stories/20190330108

A Touching Testimonial from Ben Cathey.

Books4Buddies has made gigantic strides in just a few short years. I'm looking forward to seeing real impacts and progress in the literacy of Toledoans in the coming decade, as the recipients of free books come of age.


B4B doesn't just help kids in need of their first books. They also provide hope for the MENtors, add tangible meaning for donors, and show the ambassadors a new side of their city.

The MENtors and board members get a great experience of helping both ambassadors and local children. Whether it's a summer cookout at the Birmingham Terrace, or watching future leaders bond with foreign exchange students, it's a low-cost, high-reward experience for the 'adults' of Book4Buddies.


Donors can't always see a true impact on their dollars. But giving to Books4Buddies is different; you see the pipeline of where your money goes, and even small donations multiply their effectiveness time and time again.

The biggest change is often in the ambassadors. Those high schoolers willing to give their time and hearts learn about impoverished parts of Toledo they may have only seen in the news. They don't just get a line on their resume' or college application. These teens get real-world media experience, business connections for life, and an appreciation of what they have.


- Ben Cathey

Former Books4Buddies, board member
It takes a Village!
Global brotherhood and movement
Power of a Mustard Seed

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: https://thetoledojournal.com/john-s-scott-playwright-inducted-in-toledo-lucas-county-public-librarys-toledoana-collection/

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 bgindependentmedia.org - 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 (Books4buddies.com).

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.