In only a little over a year of operation, the East Bay location of the Children’s Book Project has reached a major milestone.

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Amanda Richardson smiles when she hears that she has just chosen the 50,000th free book on her very first visit to the Children’s Book Project. As a new teacher at E. C. Reems Academy in East Oakland, she is in dire need of books for her classroom and for her students’ homework packets. She can hardly believe that she has just discovered the mother lode, a constant source of new books whenever she needs them.

But where do all the books come from? Well, we have some fairy godparents in Michael and Joy Johnson of Pacific Book Auction who have provided us with 20,000 books so far. PBA buys truckloads of books and sells the best of them on the Internet. Michael throws most of the children’s books into a “Gaylord,” which is a box about 4 feet tall and 4 feet square. Periodically, our volunteer book divers—a group of retired teachers and other friends—show up to empty the Gaylord and pack thousands of books into stackable boxes.

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The worker bees who sort and organize the books share years of teaching experience. Ann Katz, the founder and director, taught kindergarten in Alameda. Fern Lehner taught preschool at Washington Child Development Center in Oakland. Judy Milford retired from 2nd grade in Dublin. Linda Moore taught kindergarten at Crocker Highlands. In addition, Denise Young, a former facilities manager, and college student Jessica Ashman provide an energetic and valuable addition to our team.

All of us get particularly excited when we unpack examples of the quality children’s literature that we know from experience is most appropriate to specific age groups.

Our regular Book Project clients include many of the Reach Out and Read pediatric clinics in the Bay Area that give out a book at every well-baby visit. Some of the preschool classics we recommend to the clinics include:

Children who are starting school need to practice rhyming and phonetic skills. Famous authors have filled this void with clever low-vocabulary books. Some favorites are:

Second and third graders love to read book series. Several high-interest, low-vocabulary chapter books have been written for them. The Magic Tree House series mixes history with fiction as the children adventure through time. Mary Pope Osborne has also written some reference guides to complement her novels. The 26 A to Z mysteries and Nate the Great are mystery books with children as detectives. Arthur, of course, is a popular TV series:

  • “Magic Tree House,” Mary Pope Osborne (36 in the series)
  • “Arthur,” Marc Brown (33 in the series)
  • “The A to Z Mysteries,” Ron Roy (26 in the series)
  • “Nate the Great,” Marjorie Sharmat (series)

I’d like to end this list with a few read-out loud-humorous classics. They range from the silly poetry of Shel Silverstein to the bizarre humor of Judy Blume and Roald Dahl:

In future articles, I will focus on multicultural and books for older students, but I need some help with that. If you work with older children, please add a comment or visit us to share your expertise with us.

If you are a teacher or other professional who works with underprivileged children, please take advantage of our services. Books are available free of charge every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Grand Lake Neighborhood Center, 530 Lake Park Avenue.

If you enjoy children’s literature and have some free time during the week, join our volunteer team — collecting, counting, sorting and distributing books.