Summer school paid off for Mount Vernon Community School principal Peter Balas, who officially opened the newest Alexandria Book Shelf Oct. 6 as part of the DreamDog Foundation literacy program.
“We worked hard to get this built,” Balas said as the Book Shelf officially opened for business. “We created the bookshelf over the summer and located it in a location that is easily accessible to all of our 820 students. This is a great program and we are excited to have it here at MVCS.”
MCVS Art teacher Sara Bukoski created the design and painted the bookshelf, located in the school’s main lobby, in preparation for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that also celebrated the one-year anniversary of the ABS program.
“Alexandria Book Shelf provides access to books all year round for our low-income children, not just at the holidays or back-to-school time,” said Lorraine “Rainey” Friedman, executive director of the DreamDog Foundation, the organization that created and runs the ABS program. “In just one year, with incredible support from our community, the program has provided more than 50,000 books to our at-risk students where they live, play and go to school."
ABS has provided books for children in need at preschools such as: Child and Family Network Centers and ALIVE! Child Development Center, Title 1 Schools in ACPS, Alexandria Recreational Centers, Alexandria Regional Housing Authority, FACE Centers (Family and Community Engagement Centers), Head Start programs, Child Find and preschool play groups they facilitate, local shelters (including domestic violence shelters), Community Lodgings and Boys and Girls Clubs among other locations.
Erica Jones, co-coordinator for ABS, was on hand doing double duty as Jazz the Dream Dog during the ceremony.
“The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has just released guidelines to ensure equal access to all educational resources from AP courses to library books,” Jones said. “That’s where ABS really makes a difference. We have a rich resource of books in our city and ABS shares this essential resource with our city’s at-risk children on a daily basis.”
Groups that have collected books and donated to Alexandria’s Book Shelf include: Girl Scouts, public and private schools, churches and synagogues, Old Town Boutique District, Moms groups, preschools, ACT for Alexandria, private businesses and the city’s rec centers.
The National Science Teachers Association donated 500 new STEM books with 100 of those books going to MVCS as part of the dedication ceremony.
“Today’s dedication was a celebration of what we have been able to accomplish in year one of the Alexandria Book Shelf program,” Friedman said. “The community response has been incredible, with Alexandria proving once again how generous and caring we are as one community.”
According to Friedman, a BB&T Lighthouse grant provided the funds to give away hundreds of books in Spanish and English. Each book is stickered with the ABS logo and can be returned to any ABS site at any time.
“We have a wealth of resources, in this case books, right here in Alexandria,” Friedman said. “And it is so heartwarming to see people come together to share, give and make a difference for our own children.”
ACPS School Board chair Karen Graf was also on hand to celebrate the newest ABS site.
“Tell all your friends that there are great free books here and pass it on,” Graf told the students gathered for the ribbon cutting. “I would have loved to have been able to come and take any book I wanted — to read whenever I wanted — at this age. The DreamDog Foundation and the Alexandria Book Shelf program is a real gift to our community.”
For more information on how to donate or volunteer, call 703-535-1545 or visit www.dreamdog.org.