By Ukee Washington


CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) — A Lindenwold English teacher who knows how expensive classroom books can be has given away around a quarter million books to fellow teachers. Inside a storage unit in Cherry Hill, Larry Abrams is piling up tens of thousands of books anywhere he can.

“Books coming in!” he calls out as he and other volunteers carry them in.

And as fast as they pile up, you can hear him shout, “Books going out!” They’re leaving in the arms of grateful teachers.

“It’s incredible. It really, really is,” said Christopher Cantanno, a 9th grade English teacher at Father Judge High School.

Abrams, a veteran high school English teacher, founded BookSmiles about four years ago, collecting donations for fellow teachers.

“Teachers can take as many books as they can carry,” he said. “Teachers don’t have to pay big bucks for books.”

For a $10 donation, teachers can take home free books all year. Some have been given as many as 2,000. They can keep them in the classroom, or give them away to their students.

Larry likes to say he’s “irrigating book deserts.”

“There are many homes in Philadelphia and South Jersey where there is not one book in the child’s house,” he said.

Cantanno wanted his freshmen English students to be able to choose their own book for a project. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do two days ago when students said, ‘Well, what if I can’t get a book?'”

In less than an hour, Cantanno was heading home with about ninety books.

The idea of helping other kids read appealed to 14-year-old Bryana Turner. With the help of her Girl Scout troop, she collected hundreds.

“It feels like when you’re reading, everything goes away and it’s just you and your book,” Bryana said.

Neha Shah also stopped by and dropped off 900 books collected in the community. “We’re so happy we’re helping our neighbors,” she said.

Larry says he can’t get enough Spanish bilingual books, graphic novels, and popular contemporary kids’ books, anything that captures a child’s imagination.

“In America, every child should have plenty of books,” he said.

You can find out more about BookSmiles at http://www.booksmiles.org/

Ukee Washington