Literacy Event to be attended by Congressman Pallone

When: 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday, April 20

Where: Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County—Asbury Park Unit, 1201 Monroe Ave, Asbury Park 

ASBURY PARK, N.J. --Abby Daly’s recent to-do list included visiting astate correctional facility, an after-school club for children of families in poverty, and a community celebration run by residents of Lakewood’s Tent City. Ms. Daly, a 43-year-old mother of two, was searching for the people she considers the most vulnerable and the most deserving of her help: children.  She was there to give them free books.

“If you don’t have access to books, you are not going to get anywhere,” Ms. Daly said. “So many kids face barriers because they are underprivileged. The hurdles become insurmountable. If you can give a kid a chance or a boost, some kind of support, it is more than worthwhile.”

Since 2003, Ms. Daly has given away about 300,000 books through the nonprofit Bridge of Books Foundation, which she runs out of her home in the Locust section of Middletown.

On Friday, April 20, she will visit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County -- Asbury Park Unit to deliver about 500 books, including 25 copies of “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.

“Most of the kids we serve have never read ‘The Hunger Games,’” Ms. Daly said.  “It is a thrilling book and it talks about moral strength in the face of adversity in a way that many of the older kids can identify with. I really hope they will be excited by it.”

Ms. Daly was inspired to help at-risk children when she worked as an attorney for the State Attorney General’s Office, representing the State Division of Youth and Family Services. She receives help from volunteers, mostly fellow moms and retirees whom Ms. Daly has met through book clubs, school, sports teams, and the beach club.Funding for books comes from donations and grants. 

Ms. Daly, unpretentious and energetic, believes that local, national and international organizations must work together. She received free copies of “The Hunger Games” under the World Book Night program, an annual celebration to be held in the U.S. as well as the U.K. and Ireland on April 23 during which tens of thousands of designated volunteers will distribute free, specially printed paperbacks.

Under the program, Bridge of Books donated 120 copies of “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusakto Newark high schools, along with sets of six other titles. Ms. Daly also gave 375 World Book Night books to Lakewood High School, along with 40 copies of “The Hunger Games.”

Sarra Schwartz, a Teach for America Corps member who teaches English to mainly sophomores at East Side High School in Newark, said Bridge of Books donations have been a windfall for her and her students.

“Just being able to surround them with good quality books that I know they are going to enjoy is just so awesome,” Ms. Schwartz said.“A lot of my students have never lost themselves in a book before and so I feel like for some of them just them getting to pick out a book, getting to own the book is going to be their first experience of that.”

She added, “So what’s the likelihood of them picking up another good book this summer, and then another?”