Read any good books lately?
It’s a fair question in Morristown. But in the South African village of Randfontien, books are so rare that merely touching one is a noteworthy event.
Emma Carver, 19, of Morristown, spent a year teaching in that poor village, outside Johanessburg. On Thursday, she helped Morristown’s Junior Girl Scout Troop 914 sort stacks of used books for shipment to South Africa.
“Most kids there don’t have access to books. In a country like South Africa, the best way to improve the situation is through education,” said Emma, a Pingry graduate who is bound for Cornell University.
Fourth-graders in the junior scout troop collected 2,000 books from their shelves and from classmates at the Thomas Jefferson School for this cause, which is organized by the nonprofit Global Literacy Project in New Brunswick.
“Books for Brainfills, Not Landfills” is the organization’s motto. Amy McDonald’s Morris Township home looked more like a Barnes & Noble store after an earthquake as her daughter Aliya and the rest of the Scouts sifted piles of titles, from “Sheep’s in a Jeep” and “Off to School, Baby Duck!” to Nancy Drew and “The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary,” a personal favorite of fourth-grader Margo Cameron.
Books deemed too “American” — from a standpoint of pop culture or U.S. holidays — were culled for domestic destinations. Bevin Tierney of the Literacy Volunteers of Morris County said she would distribute some at a low-income child care center.
The Junior Scouts chose the Global Literacy Project as their community service project, in hopes of earning a Bronze Star Award, the highest honor for Junior Girl Scouts.
Troop member Maura DeLaney is Emma’s cousin, and the young scouts were so inspired by Emma’s story–she helped start a library in the the South African province of Guteng–that they wrote letters to South African children, read to kids in a literacy program at the Woodland School, and gave a presentation at Thomas Jefferson to kick off the book drive there.
“We’re helping other people who don’t know how to read,” said Margo Cameron.
Maggie Mustion chimed in: “I feel so bad; we get a great education and some people don’t even get to touch a book.”