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February 14, 2018

Jewish literacy advocate donates multicultural books for Chanukah

Joan Abrevaya’s annual Chanukah party always boasts plenty of unique traditions including hundreds of creatively designed menorahs and a variety of homemade cookies. As tradition holds, Joana always sings the blessing over the candles with her long-time best friend. Luckily for Reading Partners, one unique quirk has added a literary twist to Chanukah. This veteran volunteer tutor insists that guests bring kids books (instead of gifts) to be donated directly to Reading Partners and the schools where she volunteers!

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The tradition started around the same time when Joan began volunteering with Reading Partners. Previously, her party guests would bring small gifts for the host, but the only presents she truly wanted and needed were books for students. So she asked her friends to make the switch and so far it has been a big hit.

They’ve started telling me in advance what their favorite children’s book is and what they want to bring,” says Joan.

It fills me with such warmth and joy because I know the wonders of reading and how much it opens the world up to you.

Joan has a long history of advocating for students’ access to books. As a board member of Friends of the Seattle Public Library, she headed up the Books for Teachers program, which now distributes vouchers for $100 worth of books to 150 teachers in Title 1 Seattle schools every year.

Since joining Reading Partners as a volunteer tutor, she has been a vocal advocate for access to multicultural literature— providing students the chance to see themselves reflected in the faces of the stories’ protagonists.

I know what it means to read a book where the characters share something of your background,” says Joan. “I have always loved to read and would get ten library books every two weeks. But one day, I got the book All of a Kind Family, about a Jewish family with lots of daughters (I am one of three girls). It was so amazing to read about a family who celebrated the same holidays, ate the same foods, and shared the many common Jewish experiences I did. Knowing that I am giving books to kids who may have that same amazement and excitement means everything to me.”

Joan’s donations make up the majority of holiday gifts for the students at Sanislo Elementary, where she volunteers. And some of her donations make an impact well beyond the season of giving, having made their way into Take Reading Home and the Tutor Read Aloud libraries.

Joan’s Chanukah gifts continue to open up worlds for Reading Partners students. Learn how you can get involved and make a difference with Reading Partners by visiting readingpartners.org.

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