SAN ANTONIO - Thousands of children who live in San Antonio public housing now have plenty of new books to read, thanks to an initiative that aims to eradicate book deserts and promote literacy.
Ethan Lupian, 10, looked like a kid in a candy store Friday morning. Instead, he was in the Bazan Branch Library on the West Side and the treat was books.
"I chose the bacon book because (it) looks really funny, and I'm excited to read it," the soon-to-be fifth-grader said.
Ethan was among the dozens of children their getting first crack at what will be 20,000 books donated to the children who live in public housing.
The National Book Foundation is partnering with the San Antonio Housing Authority, Housing and Urban Development, the San Antonio Library and the Department of Education with its Book Rich Environment Initiative. The nationwide program is launching in 35 communities in an attempt to give children from low-income families access to a range of books they might not otherwise have.
"It's a big deal for us to provide these resources so we can help springboard people out of poverty," said David Nisivoccia, San Antonio Housing Authority president and CEO. "The best way I know to close that gap (in income disparity) is through education. So what better way to be educated than through the glory of a book?"
Uriah Bocanegra, 10, said he does not have very many books at home and was excited to pick up books, including one on the Battle of the Bulge.
"I just wanted to read a new book, and these three I haven't read before," he said.
More than 12 percent of San Antonio's adult population is functionally illiterate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure is more than twice the national rate. The book program aims to change that.
The delivery Friday is the first for the San Antonio Housing Authority, but it will not be the last. The initiative plans to distribute hundreds of thousands of books nationwide this year. The books are donated by major publishing companies.
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