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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
- Groucho Marx

Canadian Group Plans “Air-Lift” to Help Compton School

September 29, 2010


A team of Canadian authors plans to pitch in on Saturday with Los Angeles-based Access Books to refurbish the library at Ralph Bunche Elementary School — one of 25 elementary schools in the cash-strapped Compton Unified School District.

Access Books founder and executive director Rebecca Constantino is leading an effort to restock and refurbish all the Compton elementary school libraries, one school at a time.

“The California Department of Education recommends 28 books per student, but Compton has only three books per child. The need is drastic,” Constantino said.

She pointed out that only 48 percent of Bunche students scored “proficient’ or “advanced” in English and Language Arts on the California Standards Test.

Research has shown the best predictor of how well a child will learn to read depends on the number of books to which he or she has access.

Ninety percent of the students at Bunche live at or below the poverty line.

So on Saturday, Constantino will lead a team of volunteers in revitalizing the Bunche library by painting murals and cataloguing the brand new books. Access Books will also provide a reading rug, rocking chair and sofa to create an inviting environment — all of this free of charge to the school.

Access Books’ partner in this endeavor will be “Air Lift to L.A.” — an organization that developed after Canadian children’s author Helaine Becker visited a Long Beach elementary school and saw the empty library shelves.

This led her to rally her Canadian colleagues to start a book drive, ultimately collecting 650 books for Barton Elementary School in Long Beach.

Now, she’s turned her efforts into helping Access Books in Compton, collecting 700 new and gently used books for the Ralph Bunche School project.

“The conditions (in Los Angeles) are on par with the worst of the Third World countries,” she wrote on the “Air Lift to L.A.” Facebook page.

Becker is the author of such books as “Science on the Loose” and “The Insecto-Files.”

She said conditions are even worse because in the Third World people are working to raise standards, while in Los Angeles “conditions have deteriorated abysmally in the last 10 years.”

California ranks last in the nation in funding for school libraries, spending less than $1 per child.

The 2011 federal budget proposes spending $400 billion on education, but it does not even mention spending federal funds on school libraries.

Access Books has been revitalizing school libraries in Southern California since 1999.

Bunche Elementary has just moved its campus library into a new, larger space — but unfortunately many of its shelves are bare — a situation that’ll change this weekend when volunteers show up with paint brushes and enthusiasm.

If you would like to volunteer to help revitalize a library in the future, check out Access Books’ website.

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