Los Angeles Teen Takes on the Literacy Gap to Break the Cycle of Homelessness and Poverty with Her Philanthropic Organization

This has been a trying year for people all over the country, but California and the Los Angeles area have been hit especially hard by the effects of the pandemic, which has exacerbated the gravest problems the state already faces. Literacy, poverty, and homelessness rates in Los Angeles are staggering, and these three factors are very closely correlated. To worsen these existing problems, school shutdowns in California have left children in underserved communities at risk for falling further behind and perpetuating this unfortunate cycle. Alana Weisberg, a local Los Angeles resident and high school student, has decided to do something about it rather than to sit idly by and watch as the less fortunate in her community succumb to unfair circumstances out of their control.

After completing a summer business-building extracurricular program, Alana was motivated to start an organization or independent project of her own, but she was particularly passionate about helping out the less fortunate in her local community, and so Bookworm Global was born. Bookworm Global is Alana’s answer to local and national literacy-focused community service, and her philanthropic organization’s mission is to narrow the literacy and education gap by making books available to those in at-risk communities and ensuring that students don’t fall further behind at this difficult time. When Alana began Bookworm Global, her initial mission was simply to donate books to those in need and to provide books for other literacy-related nonprofits to distribute directly to the children they serve. However, Alana has since grown Bookworm Global into a much larger organization that serves children in a variety of ways. To date, Bookworm Global has donated over 16,200 books and trained over 230 volunteers, including Girl Scout troops and student volunteers in both Southern and Northern California. Bookworm Global builds lending libraries, partners with schools and nonprofits in low-income areas, and organizes school book fairs and contactless book donation drives. In addition, this year, Bookworm Global is donating over 400 wrapped books as Christmas presents to children living in poverty, for whom a book will likely be their only present, and this will likely be the first and only book these students have ever owned.

While Alana’s contribution through Bookworm Global is impressive on its own, the mission behind Bookworm Global comes at a much-needed time in communities that are grappling with the side-effects of the pandemic and specifically the education inequity that has been heightened by school closures. The greatest predictor of literacy for children and students living in poverty is the quality of their school library and the access or lack thereof to engaging quality reading material. Alana has helped build lending libraries for children in affected areas to offer students high-interest books specifically curated for each community, which they can bring home and share with their families. One recent lending library project Alana and Bookworm Global completed was in partnership with Braddock Drive Elementary.

Bookworm Global works directly with organizations that serve at-risk children in lower-income communities but don’t otherwise have the means or the manpower to make these literacy-focused contributions and donations. Bookworm Global is currently collecting books for Watts Learning Center, where 95% of the children served are living below the poverty line. Through donating used books, building lending libraries, recruiting volunteers, and spreading awareness about the importance of addressing the education and literacy inequity problem, Alana and Bookworm Global are attempting to make California better for the current and future generations and to break the cycle of low literacy and related homelessness and poverty.

To learn more about Bookworm Global, their founder Alana Weisberg, and how you or your student can get involved, you can visit their website here and inquire about volunteer opportunities. Alana is excited to expand Bookworm Global beyond just the Los Angeles and Bay Area, and in the future, she hopes to attack the nationwide issue of subpar education for those in socioeconomically-disadvantaged areas.