A million books — one million — put in the hands of children. The East Bay Children’s Book Project, a volunteer-run effort to collect and distribute books to kids with scant access to books, reached that milestone this week.

As hundreds of kids gathered this week in Oakland’s Mosswood Park outside the East Bay Children’s Book Project headquarters to celebrate the milestone, the impact was palpapble.

They were celebrating books.

“I read this,” a tiny young girl boasted, holding up The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss moments after the famous story was performed by volunteers. Thing One and Thing Two were still running around chasing each other in their red and white striped shirts.

Eager young faces attentively listened as Oakland author Mykah Montgomery read The Little Girl Who Wanted a Tail, and that very girl, her daughter Mylaan, sat proudly with a blue tail strapped to her waist. “She’s always liked tails,” her mom explained.

Other eager readers circled around a table where author Shirin Kim Bridges signed copies from “The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses,” a series of books she wrote about historic princesses who had improved life for their subjects.

The story of Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman, the 13th-century princess of Persia who ruled with kindness, was particularly popular. “It’s my favorite too,” Bridges assured them. Ruling with kindness was a rare practice in the 13th century, she explained. The author lives in Foster city.

The East Bay Children’s Book Project has been helping kids get excited about books, and giving books to children without access to many books since it was founded eight years ago.

Ann Katz, the founder, said the premise is to get books into the hands of children, especially children whose homes and classrooms have scarce collections. Retired school teachers, Katz and a group of friends decided that if they gave away much of their personal libraries of children’s books, they would so some good. That morphed into collecting books from publishers and book stores and individual donors and distributing them in their magic way that tends to reach kids.

“This year we’ll probably give away 200,000 books,” Katz said in an interview as she watched hundreds of children enjoy themselves at the Million Books celebration.

Saturday, the Project gave away its millionth book, as part of a celebration of that milestone. Two City Council members helped with the distribution. Below, Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney of District 3 helped children choose books. Council President Pat Kernighan, District 2, also passed around books.

millionbook2Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, the East Bay Children’s Book Project’s headquarters at 3612 Webster Avenue is open for teachers and social workers, and others who work with kids, to come in and find some books. It’s open from 3 to 6 p.m.

“Every teacher comes in here,” Katz said as a way of stating the popularity of the book headquarters at Oakland’s Mosswood Park Community Center. Displayed in neat, labeled rows in a bright yellow room, a teacher has a field day picking out books for a class. Social workers and pediatric clinic staff are other regular visitors.

“Our books go everywhere,” Katz said. She’s ready to continue the mission of giving out a million more books to the region’s children.

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