The East Bay Children’s Book Project (EBCBP) didn’t set out to be a mentor when we opened our doors nearly ten years ago: we simply set out to give books to organizations that work with children in need. That was our sole purpose, and our ideology was summarized neatly in our motto: Every Child Needs a Book.

We figured we’d give free children’s books to people in Oakland and, probably, the greater East Bay. Before long, though, we were giving books to people who planned to distribute them in Africa and China and states around the U.S. and all over California. Somewhere after we gave out our millionth book, we got the opportunity we couldn’t turn down: help create another Book Project in another area. And so we became a mentor, and we proudly announce our protégé, the Inland Empire Children’s Book Project, serving San Bernardino County.

“There’s a huge need in our schools,” says IECBP’s Bernice Lowenstein. Four years ago, only 30% of children in a San Bernardino school with which IECBP is involved read at grade level. The then-principal instituted a massive reading campaign and test scores rose. “We’ve seen on a small scale how books can affect children’s lives,” says Lowenstein. Afterward, however, a new principal did not repeat the campaign, to Lowenstein’s dismay.

After Lowenstein had worked with the school through the local Rotary for four or five years, a mutual connection with Ann Katz, East Bay Children’s Book Project’s director, suggested that she try to replicate the EBCBP in San Bernardino. Lowenstein visited EBCBP, which struck her as “such a happy place – the most wonderful place to be.” Lowenstein gathered a group of supporters and EBCBP’s Katz in turn visited San Bernardino to advise on the details of creating and running a Book Project. Katz also gave Lowenstein’s group canvas bags with EBCBP’s name, each containing early reader books about EBCBP from Larkin Press.

IECBP will host its grand opening on January 29, and will begin by giving away books to selected schools. Once they develop a steady source for books, however, they hope to be open to the larger community of organizations serving low-income children. IECBP is proud to be a pilot project for Rotary’s “Million Books 4 Kids” campaign in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Lowenstein hopes eventually to spread to other locations in order to serve both those counties – a huge area with a great need.

EBCBP’s motto is still “Every Child Needs a Book,” but we know we can’t serve every child everywhere. So we now subscribe to another core value: that helping to create and mentoring another organization is a great way to spread the good work. IECBP’s a physical site and organization are modeled on EBCBP. We will continue to share our strategies, successes and challenges with them as they grow, and we look forward to their sharing and teaching us in time. Perhaps best of all, we are incredibly proud that Lowenstein plans for IECBP to someday mentor new book projects, just as EBCBP has mentored them.

How you can help:

The Inland Empire Children’s Book Project needs book donations, especially from a source that can provide children’s books on a regular basis. Find out more at For information, email; to volunteer, email You can also reach the IECBP at 909-742-0346 or at PO Box 11873, San Bernardino CA 92423.

To donate books or money to the East Bay Children’s Book Project, visit EBCBP is located at 955 12th Street in West Oakland; our phone number is 510-408-7323. You can find our hours and more information at


Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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