Friday, February 20, 2015

The Book Zone

By Amanda Hutchins, Creative Writing Major at San Francisco State University

It's a Friday afternoon in front of San Francisco's City Hall; the sun is shining and the breeze is slight, which is good for me as I'm displaying no less than 60 children's books. This is my typical Friday afternoon: this is the Civic Center Book Zone courtesy of America Scores.

The amazing part of the Book Zone is not just that it offers a free, donated book for every participant, nor that the books range from top hits like Artemis Fowl to classics like The Boxcar Children; no, the amazing part of Book Zone is what it produces. The Book Zone has transformative powers.  It must, as I've seen kids go from refusing to take a book to being unable to decide between several, asking if I can save a book on rainforest animals so no one else grabs that particular literary prize before them. Two seasons ago the teams would arrive from the surrounding area and cautiously skirt around the tarp of books and boxes turned to shelves. It didn't seem to matter how the books were presented. To this day, the presentation still doesn't matter much, but these days teams arrive and rush to scout out the book options, some too eager to even drop their backpacks. 

The Book Zone, as it is extends even beyond the world of SCORES: there are many instances when the books have just finished being spread out into a buffet of stories when a mother or aunt or grandfather will come up and ask how much the books are being sold for. Alternatively, curious by-passers who range from the homeless to small wedding parties ask for an explanation of what's going on. After an explanation nearly every one of these people break into a smile and declare hopes of success for the program.

I've always known that reading and even mere access to books was beneficial to both the individual and the community. The Book Zone seems to act as qualitative evidence that access to books promotes literacy, an interest in reading and writing, and ultimately betters a community.

You can find Amanda matching young readers with their new favorite books at the Civic Center each Friday.  She also inspires youth during the week as a writing coach and coordinator for poetry projects and performances.

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