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!

Books 4 Buddies Meet and Greet

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

Judge Connie Zemmelman, Lucas County Juvenile Court, and Judge Lisa McGowan, Lucas County Domestic Relations, stopped by the Books 4 Buddies (B4B) Meet and Greet on Saturday, May 13 at the Holland Branch Public Library to applaud in general the work of the youthful Ambassadors for their efforts in raising money and distributing books to underserved portions of the Toledo area population.

In particular, the judges praised a recent program initiated by the Ambassadors to distribute books to youths being held at the Juvenile Justice Detention Center. 

That part of the program came about as a result of a meeting with Ambassador Jordan Topoleski, a junior at Sylvania Southview; MENtor Christopher Smith and B4B Founder Laneta Goings with the administrator of the Lucas County Juvenile Detention Center

Books 4 Buddies is a campaign that encourages literacy and provides leisure reading material, free of charge, to disadvantaged youth, especially boys, in northwest Ohio. The brainchild of Toledo native, Touré McCord and his grandmother, Goings, B4B receives support in the form of new and "gently used" donations from participating bookstores, local businesses and the general public.

Books 4 Buddies is represented by “Book Ambassadors,” area male teenagers, who help promote the program at public appearances and special events that include guest speakers and outings with local leaders and celebrities.

This year, the ranks of the Ambassadors have been supplemented by the addition of two exchange students from Africa – Birama Ndiaye from Senegal and Abdul Rafiq Lartey from Ghana.

Books 4 Buddies has donated thousands of books that have been delivered throughout NW Ohio and beyond.

Saluting Home town Hero Erik Kynard

Erik Kynard, Jr. and Cheran Lyle at the Books 4 Buddies event in the McMaster Center at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

Erik Kynard, Jr. and Cheran Lyle at the Books 4 Buddies event in the McMaster Center at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

Presented to:

Hometown Hero, Rogers H.S. Ram

OLYMPIAN, Erik Kynard, Jr., role model and avid reader

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Destinies interwoven"

Written in the stars, glorious moments are chosen,

As passion is awoken, from days that were broken,

Pushed on the path to success, and gold is the token,


But yes, I remember, the cold Decembers 

When struggle was real, and feelings were tender

Not much for dinner, when my pockets were thinner

Walking through winters, I'm never a quitter


They put weight on my back, I have strength of Olympians,

They told me to act, my spirit is limitless,

Told me to run, now I'm running with diligence, 

I speak for my people, so I stick to the syllabus,


Erik Kynard, you're a true inspiration, 

May your dedication echo for my generation, 

I know battles, and what it's like to face them,

You defied odds, and demonstrated greatness,


From a small city, Toledo, from standing tall in Rio

Your determination made the nation, understand undying zeal 

A real symbol for our youth grinding for a meal,

Like Superman, you fly high, a heroic man of steel


You're as good as gold, we have no doubts, no reservations 

A man of Sensation, a Roger's Ram, pacing his racing

As your story unfolds, a legend, is how you will be painted, 

Adored across the world, but in this city, you are our favorite"


Jelani Knightheart

Books 4 Buddies Cures Summer Blues with Cool Reads

Original article posted in Toledo Area Parent Magazine - Sam Koros

(L-R) Zane Kruszynski, Rudy Vasquez and Jason Johnson share a book with young kids at the Weiler Homes.

(L-R) Zane Kruszynski, Rudy Vasquez and Jason Johnson share a book with young kids at the Weiler Homes.

School’s out and the boredom of summer vacation is beginning to take hold. Books 4 Buddies, Toledo’s unique and impactful youth literacy program can help. 

Since 2012, Books 4 Buddies has collected and donated books for boys in Toledo’s low socioeconomic status neighborhoods.

Loneta Goings, President of the organization, says they want boys to realize that “It’s cool to read. It’s not a girl thing, it’s a gender friendly kind of thing to do. You can actually learn from opening a book.”


“The initial inspiration was conceived by my grandson who is now 18,” says Goings. “We were driving down the highway near subsidized housing, looking at the kids. I asked my grandson ‘how can you help people? What would you like your legacy to be?’ He said that if you could give a child a book it could lead to unlimited possibilities.” 

Touré, her grandson, came to this conclusion based on his own difficulties with reading comprehension—  he knew the words, but didn’t always know their meaning. This specific struggle is frequently a trigger with a lot of kids, especially boys, says Goings. 

Chapter 1

“I retired from The Blade and I brought some great organizations to the table, like The Blade and Buckeye Cable Systems,” said Goings, “We even have partners now in two public schools. I was able to meet with Clyde Scoles, the Director of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, who decided that the panel was a marvelous idea.” This set the events in motion which made everything possible. 

“Books 4 Buddies and their Ambassadors encourage literacy by embodying the ideals and virtues that build strong and positively minded communities,” saysthe library’s Ben Malczewski.  “The Toledo Lucas County Public Library is grateful to have a strong community partner in Books 4 Buddies, similarly committed to growing futures, creating opportunity, and transforming lives.”

Story Arc

What sets Books 4 Buddies apart from other literacy programs?

“What makes us different and unique are our ambassadors,” explains Goings. “They’re young men—black, white, latino— that go to public and private high schools to collect and give books to kids. They’re the public face of our program. Many of the kids we help don’t have access to books, and that can really begin to tug at your heartstrings.”

Books 4 Buddies doesn’t just go to schools. Ambassadors often meet with kids in their communities to distribute books and to encourage reading. “It has had such a profound impact on the kids.” said Goings. 

This experience gives the ambassadors valuable experience for the future. “The ambassadors now truly understand the meaning of community service,” says Goings. 

Rise and Shine Academy

Good Morning Ms. Goings, 
Rise and Shine Academy would like to thank you and Book for Buddies for helping us in building such a remarkable library for our students. The students here at RSA could not thank you all enough. They truly love and enjoy reading the books that you have so graciously donated to our school. It is a blessing to have such great people like you in our corner. Please know that your act of kindness has not gone unnoticed. We truly appreciate you and your thoughtful contribution in helping us build a place in which our students can learn and enhance their reading abilities.
Best Wishes,
Ms. Jasmine Madison
Administrative Assistant

Rockets Sign Autographs at ‘Books for Buddies’ at Franklin Park

University of Toledo football players will appear at Franklin Park Mall Saturday, June 18, as part of the “Books for Buddies” program.

The Rockets will sign autographs and meet fans at the mall from 1 to 4 p.m. The event will take place near the Macy’s entrance.

UT Football Coach Jason Candle, center, signed an autograph for a fan last month as senior offensive lineman Storm Norton, left, and junior quarterback Logan Woodside watched at the first event of the Rocket Summer Liftoff Series.
UT Football Coach Jason Candle, center, signed an autograph for a fan last month as senior offensive lineman Storm Norton, left, and junior quarterback Logan Woodside watched at the first event of the Rocket Summer Liftoff Series.
Rocky the Rocket and Rocksy also will make an appearance.
In addition, fans may pick up free posters, schedule cards and ticket information at the event.

This is the second event in the Rocket Summer Liftoff Series. 

Other events will include:

• Thursday, July 21 — Girls Night Out: Football 101 with Jason and Nicole Candle from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Glass Bowl.

• Friday, Aug. 19 — Movie Night and Autographs with the Rockets in the Glass Bowl; time to be announced.

UT Football Coach Jason Candle, center, signed an autograph for a fan last month as senior offensive lineman Storm Norton, left, and junior quarterback Logan Woodside watched at the first event of the Rocket Summer Liftoff Series.

UT Football Coach Jason Candle, center, signed an autograph for a fan last month as senior offensive lineman Storm Norton, left, and junior quarterback Logan Woodside watched at the first event of the Rocket Summer Liftoff Series.

UT students donate to Books 4 Buddies.

"In my honors class we are doing a project that is aimed at helping the area with its child literacy problem. The group most affected by this seems to be kindergartners, plus it is important for kids that age to read due to the developmental benefits doing so provides. Because of this my group has decided to collect children's books from the community, and have so far gathered around 70 or so books. Most of them are for kindergarten age, but some are definitely higher level. So the point of this email is to ask: Can we donate these books to you to hand out to children? We are also going to include flyers with each book- aimed at the parents- that talk about the importance of reading to your children. It doesn't really matter exactly how this is done, you can either just give them away, or set up an event, we would just like to be able to provide the books to the community. Thank you in advance!"

- Ben Houston

UT sophomore honor students contribute to Books 4 Buddies

To: Susan Wagner
       Jamie Lynn Zilko
      Nicole Elizabeth Sarieh
      Sophomore English Honor Students
      University of Toledo

Dear ladies,

It was a pleasure meeting with you. On behalf of the Books 4 Buddies AMBASSADORS and BOARD, thank you so much. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule, in support of literacy, and the kids in our community.  Your generosity will be forever remembered.   

Laneta Goings

Kareem Abdul Jabbar, author and basketball icon.

Ambassadors, Mondo Arce, Andrew Hoppenjaus (both SJJ) and Myles Johnson (Sylvania Southview) and Christopher Smith (Mentor) met the legendary basketball icon, Kareem Abdul Jabbar at a private reception.

Authors! Authors! is sponsored by The Blade and Toledo Lucas County Library.  They met elected officials including the Honorable Paula Hicks-Hudson and Michael Ashford and Michael Sheehy, State Representatives.

Books 4 Buddies believes education is a global responsibility, last week they proved it.

Toledo) – Books 4 Buddies believes education is a global responsibility, last week they proved it.

Books 4 Buddies (B4B), a nonprofit literacy organization, sponsored its Books/Buddies/Blankets event last Wednesday for the residents of Birmingham Terrace on the city’s east side.  The community center became a global hub as artifacts from Africa, international students from 7 countries, and a storyteller from The Democratic Republic of the Congo transformed the space.

B4B President and Co-Founder, Laneta Goings, received homemade, kid-sized blankets from Bud Hite, Executive Director of the Correctional Treatment Facility.  The felt blankets of assorted colors, with coordinating wraparound ties, were made by residents of the treatment facility.

Book Ambassadors, the young men representing B4B, then teamed with area international students from the American Cultural Exchange Service (ACES) to distribute the blankets and books to children present.  This was done after the ACES students themselves received orange B4B t-shirts and wristbands like their American counterparts. They immediately put them on, symbolic of both their global responsibility to educate and their inclusion into the B4B family. 

The students participating included three B4B ambassadors, Ivan Dye, Mondo Arce and Andrew Hoppenjans, all of St. John’s Jesuit High School. The ACES students participating were Ferial Alagha (Palestine), Mariam Cisse (Mali), Muhaimina Omar (Tanzania), Alex Peralta (Spain), all of Scott High School, Loay Alarab (Lebanon) of Start High School, Joseph Kebbie (Sierre Leone) of Toledo Tech. Academy and Marina Denali (Brazil), of Clay High School.  

Local ACES coordinators Tracee Ellis of Toledo and Val Virag of Oregon attended with their international students.

The students, staged in a semicircle around the children, read to them as they munched on cookies, mini-candy bars and other fun treats provided by LMHA. Young Kebbie was especially entertaining as he read “What is a Dinosaur?”  His enthusiasm, his expressive eyes and a smile reminiscent of the diamonds found in his West African country, left the children craving more.

The highlight of the afternoon however, was the storytelling of “Papa” Antoine Kabwasa of The Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Although dressed in western attire, it was not hard to imagine “Papa” Antoine in ancestral garb, as he held an African shaker filled with beans, in his right hand.  The periodic sound from the shaker blended nicely with his thick accent as he captivated his audience with two stories from his homeland.  The first, “Why the Gorilla has no Tail”, (he was too preoccupied when they were handed out), was an interactive narrative complete with dance steps and prompts for audience participation.  The next, “Pali Pali the Bird and the Mask”, was more traditional in style and fit well with his grandfatherly manner. Both stories taught a lesson and both mesmerized the approximately 50 people in attendance. 

Books/Buddies/Blankets was primarily for the children, but no one left emptyhanded.  Even their parents received buckets full of cleaning supplies and other practical household items.

Thanks to Melanie L. Johnson, Family Service Coordination Specialist at LMHA, Captain T.O. Walker, Lucas County Sheriff’s Department and Dr. Christine Smallman, Blade in Education Director, for all their hard work in making this an awesome event.

Even in Toledo, education is our global responsibility.

Local support for Books 4 Buddies is vital.

Original article posted in The Toldeo Blade - 10/27/2015

In response to your Oct. 2 article “Stories shared in Spanish; Volunteers read as part of Books 4 Buddies”: Research has shown that good literacy skills are linked with higher self-esteem, better health, better jobs, and higher wages.

Unfortunately, two thirds of America’s children who live in poverty have no books at home. That leaves them at significant risk of falling behind their peers in literacy and overall academic achievement.

In Ohio, a campaign is under way to ensure that all children have access to the reading materials they need to achieve. Books 4 Buddies is a local nonprofit organization that collects and distributes new and gently used books for disadvantaged children and young adults. Founded in 2012, it has donated more than 30,000 books in northwest Ohio and beyond.

Providing access to reading material is crucial to addressing the educational disparities we encounter in our state. I applaud the good work done by Books 4 Buddies and other charitable organizations.

I encourage this community to make a commitment to improving child literacy rates, whether that means parents taking their kids to the library, young adults tutoring children after school, or community members donating books to or becoming engaged with organizations such as Books 4 Buddies.

Books 4 Buddies will hold a fund-raiser from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at Rachel Michael’s Gourmet Popcorn, 5307 Monroe St. Thirty percent of proceeds from today’s popcorn sales will go to Books 4 Buddies.

Together, we can ensure our next generation has the literacy tools it will need to succeed in the classroom and in life.

Ohio House of Representatives
46th District

Stories shared in Spanish: Volunteers read as part of Books 4 Buddies

Original article posted in The Toldeo Blade - 10/2/2015

WOODVILLE — The squirming, smiling preschoolers couldn’t contain their excitement on Thursday as a roomful of visitors came to read and deliver books to them.

The 15 children, all students at the Migrant Head Start in Helena, listened to several volunteers in a Spanish read-aloud as part of the Toledo-based Books 4 Buddies program, which provides free books to area children and promotes literacy.

“We think if you become good readers, you will be good students,” said Christopher Smith, a mentor with Books 4 Buddies.

“Cool!” exclaimed 4-year-old Carlos Gonzalez, eliciting a laugh from the crowd.

“Yes, exactly right,” Mr. Smith said. “Reading is cool, never forget that. The more you read, the more you learn and the more options you create for yourself.”

Students heard several stories in Spanish read by State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon), Sylvania musician Miguel Saucedo, and Baldemar Velasquez, president of Farmer Labor Organizing Committee, who has spent decades organizing and advocating for farm workers in northwest Ohio.

“I was 12 years old before I got my first book,” Mr. Velasquez told the students, praising the program for getting books to the students. “This is very, very good.”

Three students from Toledo’s Scott High School also read, including foreign exchange student Alex Peralta, who is from Madrid, Spain, and is a senior this year.

“I really like to volunteer,” he said in Spanish before the event. “And it’s forcing me to find the words in Spanish again.”

By the end of the month, most of the students’ families will leave northwest Ohio with the end of the growing season, and the school will close for the year. This year, the preschoolers will be sent on their way with a book in hand.

“They don’t have a lot of things to take with them,” said Niki Holland, center manager at the facility. “For them to be able to get books to take with them, it’s a great thing. You can see how excited they are.”

After the read-aloud, the students excitedly crowded around to pick out additional books, eager to show the guests their new haul. Books 4 Buddies president Laneta Goings, who co-founded the organization with her grandson in 2012, said deliveries such as Thursday’s were exactly why the program exists.

“We know that reading is the pathway to life,” she said. “If you can’t read, you can’t do anything. ... This is what it’s all about, our future leaders.”