Book Truck Serves up Nourishing Book Soup on Miracle Mile

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A stop off at the Goethe-Institut at the Wilshire Courtyard on April 13th raised much needed funds for The Book Truck, a mobile library that has given away thousands of free books to teens in under-served communities.

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Cornelia Funke signs books at the Book Truck event.

The Goethe-Institut‘s  regular Sunday film/TV program – “Kinder Kids Matinee” – was host to a special Book Truck Benefit Party in the Miracle Mile which raised hundreds of dollars. Helping the effort  was award-winning writer, Cornelia Funke, one of the primary long-term supporters of The Book Truck.

Funke who lives in Beverly Hills but was raised in Germany, has written several young adult bestsellers such as Reckless, The Thief Lord and the Inkheart Trilogy, and was listed on Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2005.  She appeared at the Goethe-Institut  in connection with the showing of two episodes she had written for the vintage German children’s TV program “Siebenstein Stories.” Following the showing, The Book Truck van displayed its contents and discussed its mission with the Kinder Kid audience, many of whom travel over an hour to attend the monthly film program.

Book Truck Executive Director Elizabeth Dragga explained to the Larchmont Buzz that she founded the non-profit organization after graduating law school and working as an educational advocate with children and literacy issues.   In her job as Managing Director of the Children’s Book World’s non-profit arm she recognized that many books for teens were not being used, and so started delivering books herself to underserved  teens in group homes, working out of her trunk.  Now with a handsome delivery van, Dragga works primarily with 26 “drop-out recovery high schools” in L.A, visiting each school twice a semester.   Teens are allowed to select two books at a time off the van for free.

Elizabeth Dragga
Elizabeth Dragga is the Executive Director of the Book Truck program

Before visiting, Dragga surveys the school teens on their reading interests so the book give-aways can be tailored.   According to the thirty-something Dragga, most requested is realistic fiction and true life stories especially kids overcoming adversity.  “It’s amazing how varied the requests are,” Elisabeth explained, “– books on street art and parenting, as well as the very popular Hunger Games, and Divergent. I have also received very specific requests for Edgar Allen Poe and The Great Gatsby.“

Elizabeth collects new and gently-used books for the truck through book drives but gaps are filled in with new purchases.   “It’s important to include diverse minority authors,” she explains.    “Teens are permitted to take two books at a time because we’re trying to role model reading.  Just because you don’t like a book the first time doesn’t mean you’re not a reader.  You can switch to another book, and maybe come back to the first, or not.” The mission of The Book Truck is to empower teens to find the books that nourish their hearts and minds.  Only 1/3 of students entering high school are proficient in reading, with low literacy rates linked to poverty, teen pregnancy, and crime, the organization points out.  “Books shouldn’t be a luxury.”

The Book Truck is a project of Book Roots, Inc., a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and welcomes visitors to their website to make a donation or fund a book on their Amazon Wish List. The Goethe-Institut is located at 5750 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 100, phone (323) 525-3388.

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About Renee Montgomery

Renee Montgomery began researching historic men's waistcoats at LACMA in 1979 as an intern, and is still at the museum as an Assistant Director in administration. She's written for various local media and museum publications, focusing on 'small town pockets' in urban L.A. She resides in Lafayette Square and has one daughter, a professional ballet dancer. Having never lost her zeal for her 'aggie' San Gabriel Valley/Riverside upbringing, Renee currently sells citrus and homegrown produce to support dog rescue efforts.

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