Helping Under-Resourced Schools in NYC with Project Cicero’s Passion for Reading
The first time I purchased a book of my own I was 8 years old. My grandfather had given my brother and I $3 each as a holiday gift and my mom took us to the local Toys R Us Superstore and told us we could buy whatever we wanted with our money.
Money of our own for the first time – we felt like millionaires! I spent .95 cents on “A Cricket in Times Square” and $1.75 on “A Wrinkle in Time.”
The books were a little ahead of my reading ability, but I loved them anyway. I was so proud of them!
I carried them with me everywhere and read them over and over again as soon as I could. I still have them displayed proudly on my shelf today.
Books opened a world of imagination, curiosity, learning, and adventure I am still passionate about.
Project Cicero fuels that kind of love and passion in children across the 5 Boroughs of NYC through an annual, free for teachers, massive book distribution event.
Leading up to the event, Project Cicero collects new and gently used book donations and co-host book drives run by over 100+ New York City independent, public, and parochial schools.
They also accept larger book volume donations by local organizations and have an Amazon WishList for anyone looking to donate specific books.
The books are transported to a distribution site where hundreds of student, parent, and teacher volunteers unpack and sort the books, then get them ready for display. Tens of thousands of books are collected for the event.
NYC public school teachers register to attend. At the event, the books are laid out by category and/or reader age (board books, geography, foreign language, reference, STEM, young adult fiction, etc.).
Teachers can spend as much time as they’d like perusing the tables and racks, and they can take as many books as they can carry back to their classrooms and schools. All the books are free.
Over 2,000 teachers registered for this year’s event, most of whom come with rolling, large-sized luggage and other wheeled containers they can completely fill with books for their students.
Teachers come with lists in hand of subjects, book titles, and genres of books they’d like to have for their classrooms/school libraries. Some of the board members of Project Cicero, and many of the volunteers, are either current or prior educators and are available to help teachers make good choices for their students.
Project Cicero is a non-profit aimed at solving inequality of resources in New York City public schools. Their event is aimed primarily at providing books to teachers at Title 1 Schools. These are schools where at least 40% of their students come from low-income families.
There are over 1800 public schools across the 5 boroughs of NYC and over 1200 of them receive Title 1 funding (1)
We learned that teachers do not only bring books back for their classroom and school libraries. They also will select books to use as rewards and incentives since many children’s families cannot afford to buy books. And they often choose books to supplement curriculum or to provide new experiences for their students.
I volunteered one of the days leading up to the event and spent my shift sorting, unpacking and repacking books.
There were boxes of donations piled high and tables were already pre-filled with books for the upcoming event.
Project Cicero encourages groups of volunteers from companies and even groups of students to come volunteer together and make a difference.
In addition, students can help organize and work at their own schools’ book drives.
Since its inception in 2001, Project Cicero has distributed over 4,000,000 new and gently-used books to tens of thousands of New York City classrooms, reaching over 1,000,000 students!
Donated books not good for use in the event (because they are too worn/damaged, or are textbooks that are too outdated, etc.) are recycled.
After the event, any books remaining that were not chosen and are of good quality are donated to local organizations for their use and distribution. They try to bring in all new stock every year.
Project Cicero was one of 33 organizations included in the NYC Materials Exchange Development Program’s inaugural study and continues to be recognized as a major re-user/recycler in New York City.
In 2020 alone, Project Cicero reused 68,308 pounds of material — saving it from landfills.
The organization is named in honor of the Roman writer, statesman, orator, and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, who created extensive libraries in the first century BC.
He shared his love of literature and learning, just like Project Cicero seeks to do. Cicero is credited with the quote, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
Project Cicero is helping improve reading skills and reading levels, introduce students to new subject matter, increase enjoyment of reading, and inspire the love of a good book…. their goal to ensure every student has access to books is inspirational!
What was your favorite book as a child? Let me know in the comments below!
Would you like to learn more about Project Cicero?
Check out their website at: https://projectcicero.org/
Want to participate in donating books to Title 1 schools in NYC?
To purchase books from the wish list, visit projectcicero.org/wish-list/
Interested in helping your child’s teacher or school set up an Amazon WishList of their own to share with the school families and community?
I put together some simple directions you can download below.
THANK YOU for joining my journey! XO XO
(1) (2018, September 15). More Schools Eligible, Less Aid Available. New York City Independent Budget Office. Retrieved March 10, 2023, from https://ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/more-schools-eligible-less-aid-available-federal-support-shrinks-for-city%20-schools-with-many-low-income-students-2018.pdf