Community Voices

Miami-Dade initiative distributes tens of thousands of free children’s books

Helping with book donations for children are members of the Miami Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta women's fraternity, from left, Andrea Mustelier, Annette Tellez, Kit Wills, Kirstie Bray, Carrie Cleland, and Gayle Bainbridge.
Helping with book donations for children are members of the Miami Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta women's fraternity, from left, Andrea Mustelier, Annette Tellez, Kit Wills, Kirstie Bray, Carrie Cleland, and Gayle Bainbridge.

One of the joys of summer is finding that extra time to read. We never know which book will change our life, open our eyes and help us better understand the world.

But for many children, acquiring a book to love is a rarity. Read to Learn Books for Free, the literacy initiative of the Miami Book Fair International and The Children’s Trust, makes that easier.

Numerous adults, students, schools, groups, businesses and organizations joined in the mission this year proving that the capacity for book love is large. Thanks go to everyone who made donations to keep free books available to all children.

Read to Learn Books for Free would like to especially thank the children of Temple Beth Am, Ponce de Leon Middle School, The Cushman School, Southwest Miami High School, Casa Dei Bambini Montessori School, Palmetto Elementary, Gulliver Academy, Carver Middle School, Palmer Trinity School, Leewood K-8 Center and Glades Middle School, who together collected more than 6,000 books during the 2015-16 school year.

Special thanks to Limmud Miami, which during a one-day book drive collected 285 children’s books. Also thanks to the members of the Jack & Jill Club, who collected 231 books; and to Ponce de Leon Middle School student Braulio Gonzalez and librarian Mercy Mont-Ros for collecting 1,717 books.

Anjana Mishra, along with her two children, Shreeya and Shaunak of Palmer Trinity and Leewood K-8, have collected more than 5,000 books since 2014. Etta Gold, librarian for Temple Beth Am, collected more than 580 books in just a couple of months, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools made a donation of almost 4,000 books from its warehouse.

Staff at Publix Supermarkets collected more than 9,000 books through their drive, and TD Bank donated more than 6,000 books purchased from First Book. Through their ongoing book drives, Miami-Dade Public Library collected more than 5,600 books; the city of Coral Gables collected more than 700 books at the Coral Gables Youth Center; the Miami-Dade Police Department collected more than 400 books; and Florida Memorial University collected almost 400 book donations.

“It’s encouraging to see people from all over the county come together to support Read to Learn Books for Free with such strength, inspiring their own communities to fall in love with reading by making books fun and more accessible,” said Marci Cancio-Bello, Read to Learn Books for Free Program Coordinator in a release.

An extra big shout out goes to the Miami Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta women's fraternity that received a $1,000 grant from the Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation. With that money, Read to Learn Books for Free was able to purchase 236 bilingual books in Spanish and French.

“Because the goal of the Foundation is to partner with alumnae chapters to support projects that support the Fraternity’s educational and philanthropic efforts, we felt that Read to Learn Books for Free would make a good service project for our alumnae chapter,” member Kirstie Bray said.

Since the beginning of the 2015 school year, Read to Learn Books for Free has distributed more than 113,307 books to the children of our community.

Through the program, young children are able to select books for free from 40 bookshelves found in a variety of locations around the county, such as juvenile court to community service offices, clinics, park and community centers.

You too, can share with Read to Learn Books for Free. Books practically fly off the shelves and restocking is done weekly. To meet the demand, children's books are always being collected. Visit to learn more and to find a donation bin closest to you.


Aye, matey! The whole family can swagger on out to see the The Pirates of Penzance free operetta performances on July 14 and July 17. This is a great way to introduce children to opera, and also beat the summer heat yourself.

The Gilbert and Sullivan light-hearted show will be sung by members of the Miami Acting Company and the Riuniti Opera, with music performed by the Alhambra Orchestra with conductor Timothy Shade. Cast members are Sophia Aranda, Jonathan Mitzenmacher, Francine Birns, Christopher Dreeson and Lito Becerra.

The plot: When the pirates and their apprentice Frederic meet Major-General Stanley and his daughters, hilarity ensues in song. The history: This operetta premiered way back in 1879, and has had many runs on Broadway. It is still an audience favorite.

All three presenting local nonprofit organizations are dedicated to serving our community.

The just-for-kids performance is one hour and starts at 10 a.m. July 14 at the Ponce de Leon Middle School Auditorium, 5801 Augusto St. in Coral Gables. All children are welcome, and adults can attend too.

The longer performance, for all ages, is at 4 p.m. July 17, at Temple Beth Am Auditorium, 5950 N. Kendall Dr. in Pinecrest. Both venues have free parking.


Rosann Whitten will review the book Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep by Michael Schulman, at 10:30 a.m. July 20 at GFWC Coco Plum Woman’s Club, 1375 Sunset Rd., Miami. Admission is $15 and proceeds will go toward Project UP-START, the education program for our community’s homeless children.

The book review will include the entertaining stories surrounding Streep’s early rise to stardom. It is an enchanting look at the intricate details on how a young girl from New Jersey became a force in the entertainment industry.

Refreshments will be served. RSVP to Pat Rivas at 786-547-0429 or


One of the greatest gifts is to help others through organ donation. Rose Allen of Baptist Hospital and Cynthia Smith of Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency will hold a discussion, “Policies and Procedures for Facilitating Organ Donation,” 7 p.m. July 14 at the Coral Gables Congregational Church, 3010 DeSoto Blvd. in the chapel.

The event is free and open to the public. It will be hosted by the Miami chapter of Compassion and Choices. For more information visit

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at