The A Book a Day team
As an artist and picture-book illustrator, I have been collecting children’s books for over 30 years. My collection currently holds over 7000 titles in English, Bulgarian, Russian, Hebrew, and other languages. When I developed the idea for the A Book a Day Program in 2012, I wanted to replicate my personal collection and share it with children in our community.
Our international team brings their unique immigrant stories, and we believe these personal experiences help us better serve the diverse community of West Philadelphia students. Our work centers around the book. Every title that we donate is carefully selected and reflects the multicultural identities and immigrant background of our team.
Sibylla Benatova, Executive Director
Photo © Michael Farrell, Deputy Chief of Leadership Development, School District of Philadelphia
The A Book a Day Program is a West Philadelphia community-based initiative that donates newly published children’s books to two public schools. Eight new, quality hardcover books are delivered to each of the school libraries every month. Since the beginning of the program in October 2014, we have donated over 1,300 new hardcover books to the school libraries. The goal of the program is to establish a strong relationship between the University of Pennsylvania, the Henry C. Lea School, and the Penn Alexander School Libraries, and to unite our community around providing equal access to school resources. We partner with various institutions in West Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. Our programs are sponsored by the Pine Tree Foundation of New York, The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, The Wolf Humanity Center, and others. Additional funding is provided by Bindlestiff Books. Over the period 2014-2019, the funds for the books have been provided by the Penn Libraries.
The core aim of the A Book a Day program is to find new and intriguing books on music, art history, poetry, or street art, as well as science books for the young reader. A subprogram, Behind the Books +, integrates books requested by the teachers and finds professional publications on education. We are dedicated to helping grow the school libraries and to supporting teachers in their professional interests.
A Book a Day Program opening, October 2014 photo © Sibylla Benatova
A Book a Day provides access to new children’s publications that promote diverse cultural and linguistic experiences. In both schools the vast majority of students come from bilingual families, celebrating many unique customs and traditions. The diverse and international selection of books donated by the program provides opportunities for students from a variety of cultural backgrounds to recognize themselves and their classmates in the pages, thus helping them identify better with the characters in these books. The translated titles that we select can also help open up the kids’ cultural horizons beyond their own individual experience with stories and illustrations that depict international characters and address a range of social, economic, and ecological problems.
The books included in A Book a Day are carefully selected to enrich visual literacy and deepen appreciation for and knowledge of the arts. Luxurious hard-covered books with elegant, lavish, or modern illustrations reflecting different painting styles can increase young readers’ admiration and respect for the book as an object and provide children with creative and imaginative inspiration.
The books are delivered on a steady schedule, which ensures an ongoing conversation with librarians and the teachers at the Henry C. Lea and Penn Alexander schools to incorporate requests from both schools. This regular schedule makes the selection of books better coordinated with the curricular needs and resonates closely with the subjects being covered.
Starting in 2015, all orders for A Book a Day are placed through a local West Philly, independent bookstore, Bindlestiff Books. Our partner, Bindlestiff Books, provides a generous discount on all book donations. In this way, the program also helps support a local business that provides a book shelter for all the kids in the neighborhood.
Our unique bookplate, placed in all books donated by A Book a Day, incorporates the image of an apple tree. The symbol of the apple tree suggests the way in which the A Book a Day program helps plant the seeds for a lifetime of growth, learning, discovery, and educational achievement.
To learn more about the A Book a Day Project, e-mail project leader, Sibylla Benatova
Special thanks to our community of friends, and to our donors and volunteers.
H. Carton Rogers, III, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries, University of Pennsylvania, for his vision and support.
Dan Traister, Lynne Farrington, and John Pollack, for their suggestions for books and for their immense support in the research of children’s literature.
Alexis and Jon, the owners of Bindlestiff Books, for ordering the books and for generously discounting our orders.
Melissa Trusty, kindergarten teacher at PAS, for being the inspiration behind this idea.
Will Noel, Director of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, for his support.
Soyoung Jung, for the countless hours of volunteer work, for establishing and supporting our social media, and for opening new programs and initiatives as a dedicated donor and volunteer.
Boyana Siromahova, for her many hours of volunteer work on making our website a user-friendly resource for teachers and librarians.
Jayne Downing, librarian at PAS, for her encouragement and suggesting ways to further develop this program.
Linda Kim, leader of the WePac volunteers team at Lea.
Ann Kreidle, Manager for Penn Partnerships Planning Office at PAS, for keeping an open line of communication and providing lists of book requests.
Kristen Littles, for bookplating and placing Colibry covers on all the books.
Jamie Fisher, for discovering the image used for the bookplate within the Kislak Center Collections.