A Book a Day inspires young readers with inclusiveness and representation

A Book a Day, a nonprofit run by Penn GSE’s Sibylla Shekerdjiska-Benatova, has partnered with medical providers like the Puentes de Salud clinic to provide books to children, including titles in Spanish and other languages.

When children see themselves represented in books, it helps foster a love of learning and reading. That’s the thinking behind A Book a Day, a nonprofit that provides new books and literacy programs for young readers at Philadelphia-area schools, community centers, and medical clinics.

Two people holding up children’s books written in Spanish.
Image: Courtesy of A Book a Day

Founder and executive director Sibylla Shekerdjiska-Benatova, who is finishing a Master of Science in Education in the Graduate School of Education’s Reading/Writing/Literacy program, says all children need engaging and relatable books as they grow. But she pointed out that many public schools have lost funding for their libraries in recent years. Unable to purchase new books, what remains are books that are fact-based, celebrate major religious holidays, or are simply outdated. As a result, students, particularly children of color, are deprived of stories that reflect their lives, languages, and cultures.

Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, Shekerdjiska-Benatova says she was surprised—and frustrated—to learn how neighboring schools in America can have vastly different resources, despite being part of the same community or even the same district. So she set out to fix the program in her own neighborhood.

A Book a Day currently works with two School District of Philadelphia elementary schools—Henry C. Lea School and the Penn Alexander School, both in West Philadelphia—and is preparing to launch with a third.

Under the banner of “Literacy Everywhere,” the organization donates a range of titles each month, including picture books, early reading books, graphic novels, and young adult literature. Since 2014, the nonprofit has donated more than 7,000 mostly hardcover books for students in grades K through 8.

Read more at Penn GSE News.