Sixteen-year-old Alana Weisberg has been a bookworm for as long as she can remember. But while the stereotype of the bookworm kid is someone whose nose is stuck in a book, scarcely noticing the physical world around her, Weisberg is acutely aware of others’ needs.
During the early months of the quarantine, she paid attention to stories forecasting how the pandemic would widen the educational gaps between children from high- and low-income families. While some of us sunk deeper into our sofas to get more reading done during the shutdown, Weisberg thought of the children who didn’t have enough books to read at home, especially now that they were separated from school and libraries. She launched a project called Bookworm Global in an effort to help close the literacy gap. She turned to her community for book donations, and the response was overwhelming. As of late June, Bookworm Global had donated more than 48,000 books and worked with 340 volunteers. And while the organization started in L.A., it has expanded beyond local borders to include donations throughout California, Philadelphia, Chicago and Mexico. Weisberg and her team have also helped service organizations (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, National Charity League) do meaningful service through no-contact book drives.
Recently, Weisberg won a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, which was established by The Helen Diller Family Foundation to support Jewish teen leadership and celebrate tikkun olam, or “repairing the world.” Each recipient receives $36,000 and is expected to apply the money to their project or education.
For her current project, Weisberg is aiming to organize a book fair to reduce the summer learning slide. Other components of Bookworm Global include book recycling, research, author interviews and technical support to nonprofit organizations. To learn more, visit bookwormglobal.com or email Bookwormglobal@gmail.com.