News & Stories

Love to Read Drive Raises More Than 4,000 Books

In the children’s book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Little Nutbrown Hare tells his parent, “I love you right up to the moon.” And Big Nutbrown Hare replies “That is very, very far.”

The overwhelming response to The Cooper Foundation’s I Love to Read Month book drive exceeded our expectations. You not only showed that you love to read but you were passionate about sharing that love with others. In fact, your love went very, very far. During the month of February, we collected more than 4,000 children’s books for the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper — more than 4,000 books!

A special thanks to Dr. Anat Feingold, a pediatrician at the Children’s Regional Hospital, for coming up with the idea.

Below are just some of the many examples of your kindness.

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When Megan Lipski, adviser for the Student Council at Central Elementary School in Haddonfield, N.J., learned about the I Love to Read Month drive from parent Sharon Dostmann, Cooper Deputy General Counsel, she knew her students had to get involved.

“I’m always looking for opportunities to help out the community,” Lipski said. “I wanted to give our students the opportunity to see the impact of helping someone else … to see how exciting it can be.”

Lipski’s enthusiasm for the drive was contagious. The Student Council representatives from the third, fourth and fifth grades immediately began spreading the word about the book drive. For two weeks in February, they went from room to room asking for their classmates to donate books. They made posters and there were morning announcements.

The students donated their recess time to make Valentine’s Day cards for the pediatric patients at Cooper. They wrote a special note explaining that they would receive a surprise later that month. Read more about their Valentine’s Day surprise.

On February 27, Susan Bass Levin, President and CEO of The Cooper Foundation, met with students at Central Elementary School. She was greeted by some of the Student Council representatives in the school lobby and led to the school library where they gave a presentation, surrounded by books.

Brian Katenberg, fourth grader, took a big breathe and announced the grand total, “1,087!”

“That is amazing!” Levin told the students. “The fact that you took this on as a project is incredible. It shows your ability to be a leader, to get a project done and do something for others.”

Lipski said the book drive’s success speaks volumes of the families and school community members, but especially the kids.

“It’s incredible. They did such an awesome job,” she said. “They learned that teamwork and collaboration are the best ways to accomplish a big task.”

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One weekend, Erin White Pukenas, MD, FAAP, told her 5 year-old son, Jake, about the I Love to Read Month to benefit pediatric patients at Cooper. Jake quickly volunteered to accompany his mother to the bookstore where she planned to purchase a few books.

When they arrived at the store, Jake began hand-selecting books.

“He would say to me, ‘Mommy, this book would make me feel better if I were sick,” recalled Dr. Pukenas, associate director in the Division of Pediatric Anesthesiology at Cooper University Hospital and assistant professor of Anesthesiology at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. “As you can imagine, we bought quite a few superhero books! But, he also made sure to choose some ‘princess books’ for the girls.”

Then Jake, who has his own personal “library” at home, came up with a great idea. He told his mom, “Mommy, the kids in the hospital should have a library, not just a few books.”

“Who can argue with that? So, we bought 75 new books to start a ‘little library’,” Dr. Pukenas.

Jake’s idea will soon become a reality as plans are already motion to place shelves in the Surgical Access Center for pediatric patients. The family has committed to continue stocking the library.

Dr. Pukenas was also instrumental in securing a donation from Barnes & Noble, which donated five Nook Tablets, two Nook Simple Touches with Glow Lights, nine covers, headphones and gift certificates to the book drive. In addition the Barnes and Noble in Cherry Hill donated 127 books.

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The Cherry Hill Daughters of Penelope chapter also participated in the book drive. Martina Harris, Director, School of Diagnostic Imaging at Cooper, shared the idea with her fellow chapter members.

“Part of our mission is education. We promote education philanthropy and civic responsibility,” explained Carol Pappas, chapter president who is also involved with The Cooper Foundation’s Jim Fifis Lung Cancer Research Event. “Reading is very important, so I thought it would be a nice way to help the children out.”

Organizers spread the word about the drive through e-mail, its newsletter and chapter meetings. They collected 137 books.

“Our members were very enthusiastic about the book drive,” Pappas said. “It is so rewarding to be able to help the children.”

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Noel Kramer, DO, and a child in her Sunday school class make a bookmark to go with the books the school donated to the book drive.

About the same time Noel Kramer, DO, and her fellow instructors were planning a Sunday school service project, she received an e-mail about the I Love to Read Month drive. Dr. Kramer, saw it as a perfect opportunity to get involved.

On February 24, more than 50 children, grades K-6, as well as high school helpers at God’s Love Lutheran Church, created 49 greeting cards and 109 bookmarks to go along with the 250 books they collected for patients at the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper.

Children at God’s Love Lutheran Church created 49 greeting cards and 109 bookmarks.

Dr. Kramer said she was touched by children’s enthusiasm and the response of the entire congregation who donated books.

“We do a Sunday school project every year. When I saw this one, I knew it was something that the children could relate to. We asked them imagine if they were sick and what it would be like if they received a book and bookmark to show they cared,” Dr. Kramer said. “I think they learned to spend time doing something nice for someone else. They realized that they are kids are out there that are less fortunate.”

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Meanwhile, Francine Gates, Education Outreach Coordinator, led the collection efforts at the Cooper Learning Center, where staff and clients collected 189 books. Since 1995, the Cooper Learning Center, housed in the Department of Pediatrics, has helped thousands of children with learning difficulties learn how to read. Gates and her colleagues have seen how reading transforms lives.

“We know the wonders that books do for children. Our clients are students who are struggling to access the beautiful stories that are in books,” Gates said. “A lot of times reading is a family activity. We wanted to share that family-feel of reading with others. The books are not just for children, but for moms, dads and grandparents, who can read with the children.”

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An avid reader, Barbara McMaster has always been connected to her local library. McMaster reached out to Delanco Public Library and spoke to one of the librarians about the I Love to Read Month drive. To her amazement, the library responded with two full boxes of books.

“I love to read. I encourage my children to read. I read to my children,” said McMaster, who heads the Women’s Board of The Cooper Foundation. “Books are the foundation of learning.”

The Cherry Hill Public Library also donated 150 books from its book sale.