inDepth: The Book Wish Foundation
It’s not just a lack of books that prevents people from reading. By giving reading glasses, supporting literacy programs, and providing lights where there is no electricity, we increase the number of people who can read each book we send. We have even developed our own solar-rechargeable reading light so refugee women busy during the day with family responsibilities can attend literacy classes at night. –from the Book Wish Foundation website
Reston-based Book Wish Foundation, founded by Logan Kleinwaks, and his mother Lorraine, who is, according to Logan, “quite a bibliophile,” with a background in education, aims to serve hundreds of thousands of refugees who would otherwise be left for years without the kinds of books that a human being needs to thrive. Some 285,000 Darfuris live in refugee camps in Chad, and one of Book Wish Foundation’s goals is to secure enough funding to develop libraries in all of them.
Though it’s easy to understand Lorraine’s support for this cause with her background in education, Logan’s interests are mainly theoretical physics. This leads one to wonder: Why books? And why war-torn Africa? Why Book Wish Foundation? Logan answers:
“Because I have a background in physics and math, I look at social problems in somewhat of a scientific way. And in the charity world I think what’s most important are not only the results you can achieve, but how efficiently you are able to do that. There are a lot of causes that matter to many people, and how do you choose how to spend your time and money?
“What’s been very rewarding is the huge number of people we’ve been able to help and how many people will benefit from this library. We have 20,000 people in this one camp, which does make you feel that you are able to have an impact. You have an opportunity to help thousands of people read your books, use your reading glasses. That is very rewarding.”
What’s so different about the Book Wish Foundation when compared with other aid organizations is that they don’t want just any old book you’re done with. They don’t hold book drives, or take in your old books. Their goal is to match the requests they receive, not acquire random books, even if they may be New York Times best-sellers.
When I asked Logan what was most important for the inReads audience to know, he shared this: “Before we send books, in this case to Darfur refugee camps, we find out what they want and at what reading levels the books need to be. Most people who are literate, are newly literate, and are reading at a pretty low reading level, regardless of their age; and of course what language do they read in is also important to consider. In other words, we don’t accept unsolicited books.”
You can donate specifically requested titles, but the best way to help is by purchasing the Book Wish Foundation’s own book. More about that in the next installment.