Vance Tomasi, 13, of Tampa, Fla., a seventh-grader at Farnell Middle School, has worked with a friend to collect and donate more than 90,000 books to families, schools, group homes, hospitals and libraries over the past two years. The oldest of four boys, Vance loves to read and could not imagine life without access to books. When his younger brother was struggling to read, he saw how much he improved after attending a summer reading camp at school. “But I worried about kids who didn’t own books,” said Vance. “We learned that kids who own books do better in school, but in struggling areas, only one in 300 kids actually own their own books.”
Vance and his friend began by conducting a drive that brought in 500 books for homeless families. But they knew they could do more, so the boys set up a website and social media accounts and partnered with the local school system to redistribute old books. Then they began organizing book drives with Boy Scout troops, sports teams, school clubs and other groups, placed donation boxes around town, and recruited volunteers to sort and box the books they received. In addition to book drives, Vance bought 25,000 books with a grant he obtained, and found a book company willing to donate thousands of additional books. Since its inception, Vance’s nonprofit organization has donated more than 90,000 books in all 50 states and as far away as Africa. He estimated that these efforts have placed books in the hands of over 18,000 kids.