Share-A-Book Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded by Zachary Hicks for the purpose of promoting literacy and the joy of reading among young children in disadvantaged communities. The foundation’s main goal is to collect new and gently used children’s books from wealthy communities and redistribute them to communities in need in Essex County, New Jersey. There is an urgent need to promote literacy among young children in this country as the illiteracy rate is about 44%, which is more than double the national average. Since its inception, Share-A-Book has collected more than 6,000 books and distributed them to organizations in Essex County such as the Read-Up Challenge 100 Book Club in East Orange and the Reading Is Fundamental Program in Newark, New Jersey.
The Share-A-Book Foundation was founded in 2000, originally conceived as a Bar Mitzvah project. The project’s intent was to have Zachary show his commitment to community service and to literacy and it grew out of his love of reading. It began as a book drive on his Bar Mitzvah day, but has now become a year-round effort. He has initiated four book drives at the Temple and has extended its scope to include book drives in his town’s elementary schools. The response has been incredible and these books drives have been remarkably easy to establish, maintain and control. A flyer is written and distributed and a collection box is set up. Zachary has learned that a simple idea can have an enormous effect and resources can be redistributed to benefit children and communities.
The Share-A-Book Foundation has donated most of its resources to the Read-Up Challenge 100 Book Club in East Orange, New Jersey. The Read-Up Book Club is a United Way initiative with the goal of promoting reading among children ages 6-9. The organization gives out new books every month, but the additional component of distributing the Share-A-Book’s new and gently used books was a natural extension to their program and a great outlet for Zachary’s books. Share-A-Book enables each child to bring home and own four books each month. Through Zachary’s efforts, children can practice their reading skills and share their knowledge with their family and friends. This helps to create a new generation of good readers in a community desperately in need of literate adults.
Furthermore, Share-A-Book Foundation has had another wonderful, but less expected outcome. Over the last 3 ½ years, Zachary has attended Read-Up Book Club meetings every month and volunteered his time to help run the program and distribute the books. In addition, he has helped to recruit at least six other young volunteers from the Temple that also help on a regular basis. This face-to-face volunteering experience at the Book Club has enabled him to grow in innumerable ways. He has learned to interact and appreciate people of different races and cultures and help them learn to read first hand. Specifically, he has developed a special relationship with a young boy named Diego. They are unlikely partners in most ways i.e. race, age, background, but both share an interest in reading.