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World Book Night Promotes Literacy at Westchester Jewish Community Services

HARTSDALE, N.Y. -- While Pamela Millian dreams of opening a used book store one day, she was able to give out 20 books for free to volunteers at the Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) Hartsdale location Wednesday.

Millian, of White Plains, signed up to be a "giver" for World Book Night (WBN), a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy worldwide by sharing the gift of a good book with those who don't regularly read. World Book Night, in its first year in the U.S., is held annually on April 23 – the date of William Shakespeare's birth and death.

"I could not be happier to give away books, as they bring me such pleasure," Millian, a retired Lawyer, said. "In my basement, I have been collecting books for years. My husband is ready to kill me, but I love having them and lending them out to people."

By arming 50,000 "givers" with 20 books each, WBN wants to reach one million light or non-readers with a special WBN edition book, according to the WBN website .

WBN Givers choose from a list of 30 books , which a panel selects and seeks permission from authors and publishers to use. The nonprofit then packs them in individual boxes for each volunteer and ships them to a pick-up location near that volunteer, such as a library or bookshop. Millian picked up her giver box from the White Plains Library.

The WJCS volunteers who received "The Poisonwood Bible," a Barbara Kingsolver novel chosen by Millian, are home visitors for the Parent-Child Home Program. They are trained to work with local families with 2 to 3 year olds to teach them language and literacy skills before entering school. They bring families a book or educational toy each week and introduce them to reading, play and conversation activities.

"I think it's good because we need to read more to better ourselves," said Patricia Gayles, a WJCS Parent-Child Home Program volunteer.

Millian is also a home visitor for WJCS, which is celebrating the Week of the Young Child (April 22-28), a celebration to garner support for early childhood programs and services that meet the needs of young children and their families. She trained as a literacy volunteer and said she has been teaching a Haitian woman from White Plains how to read.

"I am an avid reader and have been so since my childhood," Millian said. "I much preferred having my face in a book to most kid activities. I just love getting absorbed in a book." Millian and the organizers of WBN hope the books distributed for World Book Night will get passed on to be enjoyed by many.

Learn about another WBN giver from White Plains.

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