Guest blogger and book drive organizer, Sankalpa Bhuma from San Ramon, CA shares her experience as a reader and how it spurred her to volunteer for a larger cause.

Towards the end of my sixth birthday, I received what I could only perceive as the ultimate symbol of adulthood: a chapter book. Specifically, a Magic Tree House book. I, a newly minted six-year-old, had never even touched a chapter book before. It didn’t help that it came with a shocking twenty-nine others of the same series, and I couldn’t fathom how I was supposed to consume one, let alone thirty whole chapter books. The shock of the gift quickly turned to excitement with the prospect of the instant transformation into a “big kid”, pushing me to open the first book. I discovered the power of reading: the ease of immersing yourself through those sweet words and transporting to another world. A world filled with adventure, a world filled with love, a world filled with mystery, a world filled with laughter. I would be with the characters through their quests and their trials, in the midst of the action.

As I grew up, my hunger for reading only grew. I would read anything and everything – cereal boxes, menus, signs, graphic tees – anything with words, I would read. I wasn’t picky; I would read about anything from a sale on shoes to a quest to save a princess. Books became my sweet escape from the troubles of childhood. Lonely? I found company with the characters. Bored? A page was all it took for me to get hooked. Sad? I could go to a place where my problems didn’t exist. 

Libraries were integral to my happiness in my childhood. My dad would take me to the library twice a month, and I’d browse the children’s section for hours to find interesting books. I would sample the books on a comfy chair, and I would precariously add it to the sprawling pile of books I wanted. I always checked out the maximum number of books, and on the way home, I’d start reading. I never had to renew books. 

After learning about this organization, I realized just how lucky I was to have easy access to books. Libraries were always a walk or a short drive away. We always had a large school library, which allowed me to foster my reading habits. Remembering the libraries that shaped me, I knew that I wanted to help others gain easy access to books. Reading is a right, and with a school library, students are able to develop their reading skills and explore the wonderland of reading. 

Realizing that the book collection process would be easier if I did it with other people, I enlisted the help of two of my good friends. We signed up for the book drive for Ghana, and we were paired with the Kwahu Praso Basic School. We planned out how to gain the 1,000 books we needed. Our first effort was to see what books we had that we could give up, yielding us around 200 books. We also got books from close family and friends which totaled about 200 books. Next, we put a flyer describing it on NextDoor, so people near us could see it. We attached a Google Form that would be used to choose the delivery method of donation. The Google Form didn’t work as well as we intended with some people not filling it out or not using the delivery method that they had previously specified. We still got about 50 books through this method. Then, we turned to the schools in our area. We knew that a lot of people donate a variety of items in exchange for one point in CSF, a popular volunteer-based club. We decided to use this to our advantage. We got approval from CSF to do a book drive at school where three or more books donated would translate to one CSF point. As we expected, this worked exceptionally. We got over 400 books donated in the span of two months. I also asked my middle school English teacher if he knew of any teachers that had books they could donate. He was immensely helpful and was able to find over 150 books in a month. Finally, we had a little over 1,000 books by December! 

For packing the books, we organized a meeting to just pack. We were an assembly line; one would prep the boxes, one would put the books in, and one would seal up the boxes. It took a while to get a rhythm, but once we got it, the work went much faster. Finally, we had our 1,000 books scattered in 18 boxes across my living room. The week after, my parents and I went to the USPS store to ship the books. It took quite a few trips from the car to the office, but finally, the books were all in the hands of the post office. The books were beginning their journey!

At the time I’m writing this, the books have recently entered Ghana and are their way to be distributed. Because of this experience, my eyes have been opened to the true value of books and consequently, education. I’m planning to continue doing drives during the rest of my time in high school, so I can contribute to education in a place that needs it. After all, the power of reading begs to be shared.