Long Island's Book Fairies grant wishes one book at a time

FREEPORT, New York -- These fairies don't work their magic by sprinkling pixie dust - they distribute books instead.

Meet The Book Fairies, who are devoted to collecting quality reading material and giving it away to children and adults alike who need help getting their hands on books throughout metropolitan New York.

Amy Zaslansky created the nonprofit group in 2012 when she started to notice that kids had nothing to read over the summer.

"Reading is super important in my family," said Zaslansky. "I had found out that there are kids that were actually going home over the summer without any books to read. To me and my family, that is just unimaginable."

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Zaslansky decided to do something and soon enough, her garage was filled with books, and before you know it, her house was, too. But she wasn't planning to keep them - she wanted to give them all away, and The Book Fairies were born.

Nine years later, she has a warehouse and a team of volunteers who collect, organize and sort through books.

"For many people that we give the books to, for most of the children, it's the first book they have ever owned," said Eileen Minogue, the executive director. "It's a sad but true fact that one in four New Yorkers is illiterate. We know that access to books is one of the barriers to achieving literacy, and we work very hard to make sure we can ... give people equal access to achieving literacy."

The Book Fairies accept donations of new and gently used books and send them to libraries, schools, and organizations that lack funds to foster reading.

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But before they are shipped, volunteers carefully examine their condition and consider their subject matter, especially for books meant for children.

Books that are deemed in fair to average condition are packaged for partnering organizations to ship overseas. The Book Fairies have helped build libraries in Africa, India, China, South America and the Caribbean.

"I work in a school that is very low income and (has) a lot of recent immigrants, so our students don't have a ton of books of their own at home, " said Veronica Dunlop, a volunteer and collector at The Book Fairies.

"We are able to supplement from here, and that helps make them excited about reading and print media, which we are trying to keep alive," said Dunlop.

The Book Fairies are looking forward to ramping up their donations before the beginning of the school year and are so close to reaching their new goal of donating their 3-millionth book.

"There are always ways to get involved in the book fairies, the easiest is donating your books you don't need," said Zaslansky. "Just being able to donate a dollar, you are already putting three books into the hands of a child who didn't have books before."

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