Our Project

Opening for the project at the Henry Charles Lea Library. Photo by Sibylla Benatova

The A Book a Day program is an initiative that donates newly published children’s books to two public schools in West Philadelphia. 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 1200 new hardcover books to the school libraries. The goal of the program is to establish a strong relationship between Penn Libraries, the Henry C. Lea School, and the Penn Alexander School Libraries. Over the period 2014-2020, the funds for the books have been provided by the Penn Libraries.

The core 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 not only help grow the school libraries for the students but also to support the teachers in their professional interests.

Book display at the Lea Library. © 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 provide 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 insures an ongoing conversation with librarians and the teachers at the Henry C. Lea and Penn Alexander schools to incorporate requests from both schools. For example, last year we added over 60 books on how to draw requested by the students of the Lea School. This regular schedule makes the selection of books better coordinated with the curricular needs and resonates closely with the subjects being covered.

A special donation of more than 30 books on how to draw. © Sibylla Benatova

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 not only provides books for the kids in their schools but also helps support a local business that provides yet another 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 from the collections at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at Penn Libraries. The symbol of the apple tree taken from a historical book in Penn’s collections 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 friends, 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.

Will Noel, Director of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, for his initial and ongoing 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.

Melissa Trusty, kindergarten teacher at PAS, for being the inspiration behind this idea.

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.

Jamie Fisher, for discovering the image used for the bookplate within the Kislak Center Collections.

Kristen Littles, for bookplating and placing Colibry covers on all the books.

Alexis and Jon, the owners of Bindlestiff Books, for ordering the books and for generously discounting our orders.