Dana Greenblatt and Jennifer Barreto, AmeriCorps VISTAs
While books and access to reading opportunities are an essential element of child development, many families do not have consistent access to books for their children and teens. The Community Book Swap aimed to address this critical need for books in the homes of so many families in Santa Fe. Late Sunday morning, volunteers gathered at the Santa Fe Place Mall to set up for the Reading Group sponsored community swap. As one of Opportunity Santa Fe’s collective impact working groups, the Reading Group is committed to improving literacy among children and young adults. The Reading Group chose to locate the swap at the Santa Fe Place Mall because although the majority of families live on the southside of Santa Fe, this area of the city is often underserved.
For weeks donation boxes had been occupying the hallways, classrooms and libraries of schools throughout Santa Fe, collecting gently used books from students and their families. With the help of the Santa Fe Place Mall staff we creatively displayed over 700 donated books, arranging them by subject or age appropriate reading level. By noon, the mall’s food court was flooded with wide eyed patrons hunting for their next best read. Visitors came and went, weaving through tables covered in picture books, magazines and novels. The young adult novel section was especially popular, as classics such as Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket quickly found themselves in the hands of ardent young readers.
The event lasted from 12:00pm to 5:00pm with a consistent flow of book seekers throughout the afternoon. Children and young adults were invited to either bring books from home to trade or simply pick out free books if they arrived empty handed. Many families, unaware that the swap was taking place, were pleasantly surprised by the display and took the opportunity to bolster their home libraries. Some families even stopped by for a pop-up story time, allowing their kiddo to pick a book and proceeding to read together on the arrangement of cozy cushions.
From the point of view of Jennifer: One particularly special moment that stood out to me was when an old friend, who had recently joined the Boys & Girls club, stopped by to pick out a book for his mentee. After learning that his 13-year-old mentee was passionate about sports and science, we began searching the tables for interesting titles. Within 10 minutes, my friend was nearly skipping towards the exit with 3 perfect finds for the two of them to enjoy together. Being a part of this moment was truly gratifying, and I was so moved to have been able to contribute to the happiness of them both. April 8th was a day filled with enthusiasm for reading and encouragement for Opportunity Santa Fe’s Reading Group to host similar events in the near future!