LOS ANGELES — There’s nothing that 16-year-old Alana Weisberg loves more than getting lost in a fantastic book.
Weisberg has made it her mission to share the magic of reading with kids around the world.
A little over year ago, the self-proclaimed bookworm realized there was a simple way she could connect her passion for reading to philanthropy. Weisberg launched her own nonprofit, Bookworm Global, to promote literacy for children in underserved communities.
“Well, during the pandemic I found that I was reading more, and I wanted to be able to share stories with other kids and improve literacy rates at the same time,” she said. “When I started, I did not imagine that I would have donated over 45,000 books in a little over a year.”
Weisberg spends her weekends sorting the thousands of books that are dropped off at her house every week to be donated.
"The joy that you see on their faces is beyond words," she said. "They have never gotten to experience reading stories because they’ve never had their own books. So when we bring them books and they’re able to hold a book in their own hands, it’s really magical."
Weisberg realized that this was a simple formula to pay it forward that could be accomplished across the globe. She started encouraging her peers to join, and her de facto book club has now gone global.
The network of bookworms ranges from Girl Scouts to high school students across the U.S. Bookworm Global has become a teen-led book club that helps volunteers find their philanthropic groove.
Fellow high schooler Ameerah Grover has her own nonprofit, I Sparkle, and joined forces with Weisberg to help donate more books. Grover is now an ambassador with Bookworm Global.
“It inspires you that age does not have a barrier in what you can and can’t accomplish,” said Grover.
But donating books is just the beginning of this story. The bookworms are now trying to get a sense of how they can better help at risk students learn. That includes researching students’ engagement and retention with the books they are given.
Chloe Kunitz has been working to measure the impact the books have for the kids who take them home.
“We learned that 33% of the students, before they got a book, were reading at home. But after they got a book, the majority of them were reading at home,” said Kunitz.
For their next chapter, the bookworms are preparing for a book fair on May 18, where underprivileged students will be able to take home three books.
"For our event called 'Read 3,' we’re going to allow children to pick three books from our book fair, and we’re also going to include a book mark that asks questions to keep them engaged," said Weisberg. "So then, we can measure their impact of engagement as well as literacy rates."
While Weisberg and her fellow bookworms have accomplished a great deal, they’ll be the first to tell you there’s more to be written.
For more information about the pursuits of Bookworm Global and how you can help, visit here.