Believing that the ability to read is a fundamental right, And Literacy for All (ALFA) seeks to be a catalyst for enabling children and their families to develop and enhance their literacy skills. Our motto, “Building family and community literacy one book at a time,” communicates the core of our mission: to provide literacy resources, education, and programs that enrich lives, promote lifelong learning, and build community. Research shows that communities become stronger through the power of literacy.
Free Book Boxes: Repurposed, refurbished newspaper boxes donated by the News-Press are located in 12 Lee County neighborhoods. They are stocked weekly with new and used books. All of the Boxes prioritize children's books.
Free Book Friday: Following a Read Aloud, Title I elementary students are given a Free Book from a grade level appropriate selection to add to their home libraries.
Outreach: Participation at events such as MLK Jr. Day, the SWFL Reading Festival, and the Women’s March during which we offer a wide variety of Free Books relevant to the theme of the event.
Since its inception in January 2017, ALFA has given away over 15,000 new and used books through these programs, providing expanded literacy access to marginalized communities.
The Project - Reading in Our Parks
The ultimate objective is to get more books into the hands and homes of our children and their families.
We will expand our partnership with the city of Fort Myers park district for the purpose of providing Free Book Boxes in an additional eight parks located in culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse low socioeconomic neighborhoods.
We have set a goal for this fundraiser of $3,000. Reaching this goal will give us an opportunity to obtain an additional ACT grant to fully fund this project (yearly cost/Box is $1,000).
ALFA will be responsible for refurbishing donated News-Press vending boxes so they can be used for this purpose. We will install each Free Book Box in a highly visible, handicap accessible space and stock itwith a 50/50 combination of high quality new and used books.
Park locations will be chosen based upon neighborhood demographic characteristics, together with input from the city of Fort Myers’ Parks and Beautification Manager and local community leaders.
We will invite each park’s regular visitors to participate in creating and completing the Free Book Box’s design.
The inclusion of multicultural literature is part of our mission. If children never see themselves in books, they receive subtle messages that they are not important enough to appear, and that perhaps books are not for them. Important characteristics of diverse literature are themes centered on race, ethnicity, culture, and language.
An ALFA representative will check on each Free Book Box weekly in order to assure that it is in good working order, and will restock and repair it as necessary.
Continuous outreach to park visitors, employees, neighbors, and youth will inform future decision-making.
Community building occurs during all parts of this process, from working with the parks and public to identify location, to inclusion of neighbors who decorate the Box prior to installation and beyond as we actively seek input regarding materials. The Free Book Box itself offers a space for conversation. Referred to as a face-to-face movement, discussing a book with someone provides a common ground upon which to build trust. Communities grow stronger when people regularly do simple things that give them chances to connect. Our partnerships with businesses, the park district, and scouts have taught us powerful lessons about building relationships. Actively including people in this process results in pride as they take ownership and stewardship and encourages trust and tolerance. The self-confidence and group support that results can be powerful encouragement while on the path to literacy skill development as well as community building.
Based on the past 3 years’ data, Free Book Boxes located in culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse low socioeconomic neighborhoods distribute approximately 135 books per month. Multiplying this by 8 boxes would mean 1080 books a month or nearly 13,000 per year.
The impact of book ownership is meaningful and long-lasting: reading scores rise, summer slide decreases, and literacy rates improve. Reading culturally relevant books increases knowledge, expands worldviews, and enhances self-esteem. Reading in Our Parks demonstrates that reading is valued and viewed as a useful and worthwhile activity by all in the community.