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Langley HS student launches book donation drive for kids in need

Langley High School student Alex Pomper delivers donated books to the Latin American Youth Center in Riverdale, Maryland (courtesy Annie Kim)

The McLean Community Center is ready and willing to accept all your spare “Dog Man” and “Magic Tree House” books.

The facility at 1234 Ingleside Avenue is serving as a drop-off site for the latest donation drive by Give a Kid a Book, an initiative started by McLean teenager Alex Pomper to collect children’s books for kids in the D.C. area who might find them hard to come by.

“I grew up around books and realized how much I took that for granted,” said Pomper, a junior at Langley High School. “Many young kids in Fairfax don’t have access to books at home, and I think having books at home is especially important for helping kids get a good start reading, which will help them later in life.”

Launched in January, Give a Kid a Book has collected more than 4,500 books so far with monthly drives. The current effort at MCC started on Tuesday (April 19) and will last through May 20.

Driven by a passion for community service and education, Pomper has been conducting monthly book giveaways with the Arlington Food Assistance Center, a nonprofit food bank.

Donations have also gone to Second Story in Tysons, the United Way of the National Capital Area, D.C.’s Community Family Life Services, and the Latin American Youth Center in Prince George’s County.

Research indicates that access to books has a significant effect on kids’ educational success, and disparities in literacy are largely a reflection of socioeconomic inequality, following racial and financial divides.

According to Scholastic’s most recent “Kids and Families Reading Report,” children in the U.S. aged 6 to 17 have 103 books at home on average, but that ranges from 125 books for families with incomes of $100,000 or more to 73 books for families with incomes under $35,000. Hispanic and Black children also generally have fewer books in their homes than white, Asian, and other children.

Pomper says the need for books in many communities “really hit home” when he started meeting Give a Kid a Book recipients in person, including through the Arlington Food Assistance Center giveaways.

“In-person distributions…showed me how much interest there was in the books I was donating, and I think it’s one of the reasons I’m going to be continuing to run this drive,” Pomper said by email.

Give a Kid a Book accepts donations of new and gently used books for a range of ages, from toddler-geared picture books to young adult books. Donations can be made at MCC or through the organization’s Amazon wishlist and website.

Pomper has seen a particular demand for board books and ones for early elementary school-aged readers, and books in Spanish and other languages outside of English are especially appreciated, according to his mother, Annie Kim.

Pomper, who often gets an assist from his younger brother in collecting and sorting donations, is currently focusing on the AFAC giveaways and obtaining books to give to elementary schools, but he is open to working with any organization that can help get books into kids’ hands.

“I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of organizations that need the books that I am collecting,” he said.

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