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College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan. - March 2010 > Overwhelmingly Successful Book Drive Will Help 19 African Schools

Overwhelmingly Successful Book Drive Will Help 19 African Schools

News release about the success of the African Book Project.

Books.JPGby Joe Savrock (February 2010)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A recent book-collection project headed by College of Education students has far exceeded expectations.

Thanks to the efforts of scores of volunteers, more than 19,000 used books will soon be headed to the libraries of needy elementary schools in the African nation of Swaziland. The vigorous work of the volunteers will help fill the library shelves of some 19 Swaziland schools—one school for each block of 1,000 books.

Two student entities in the College—freshmen in an education seminar and interns in Penn State’s Professional Development School (PDS) initiative—undertook the ambitious project of collecting used books. After a well-attended sorting and packing night recently, project organizers Michael Gottfried and Sarah Eshbaugh have announced overwhelming book totals.

Gottfried, a freshman in curriculum and instruction, had set out to collect 2,000 books with the help of classmates, organizations in his hometown of Roxbury, N.J., and a Facebook page that he created for the effort. With overwhelming support, he has collected 8,325 books, and 7,536 of them are in good enough condition to be shipped to Swaziland.

ClassBoxes.JPGEshbaugh, a PDS intern currently preteaching at Radio Park Elementary School, has been working with a core of about six other interns at various elementary and middle schools throughout the area. The interns were hoping to collect 2,000 to 3,000 books. But, as Eshbaugh was happy to proclaim, “We have successfully packed 10,934 books.

“This project has truly taught us the importance of giving back to educators aboard,” she said. “We are all educators in this groups, so being able to provide books to help others learn is one of the greatest gifts to us as learners and future teachers.”

“We were literally buried in books,” said Marion Wheland, instructional support teacher and mentor of PDS interns at Park Forest Elementary School in State College. “We are all very excited about our success and have now shifted our attention to trying to raise funds to ship the books we collected.”

Wheland noted that some books were not in good enough condition for shipping, but these will still be put to good use. They are being distributed to local organizations, including Friendship Tutoring and the American Association for University Women for its book sale.

Gottfried and his freshman classmates reached out to their home communities for support in the form of books and monetary donations. “One freshman, Staci Speece, donated $50 out of her own paycheck,” he said. Gottfried also praised classmate Carly Williams, who raised money and volunteered at last month’s Kids Care Fair at Radio Park Elementary School, where the entry fee was the donation of one book.

In all, Gottfried contacted more than 40 groups, organizations, and individuals for book and monetary donations. He has raised $3,000 to meet the shipping cost for all the books that he and his classmates have collected.

BoxesStorage.JPG“Education in some of these African communities is lacking due to the absence of learning materials,” noted Gottfried. “The books that we are sending to Swaziland will enable many students to become more literate and better their education, allowing them to do greater things for their communities and for the world.”

He added, “Literacy is the cornerstone to a good education and without it, communities won't function properly.”

The local effort supported the work of African Book Project, Inc., a not-for-profit organization headquartered in New Orleans, which collects used books from schools, universities, libraries, and other American institutions for distribution in less-developed countries of the world. Since 2000, the project has been providing much-needed reading materials to children around the world.