Original article posted in Toledo Area Parent Magazine - Sam Koros
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.
“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.”
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.