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Holy Cross junior creates ‘book nooks’ for underprivileged kids

Courtesy of Jamie Dunn
Jamie Dunn, a junior at Holy Cross Prep, with Larry Abrams, founder of BookSmiles in Pennsauken.

For Jamie Dunn, a junior at Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, it’s more than a book.

Last November, 2023, she founded the Book Nook Project, an organization that aims to put books in the hands of underprivileged kids in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“We accomplish this by establishing book nooks – designated spaces with children’s books, at partner organizations,” Dunn explained. “Since the founding, I have established partnerships with 11 organizations, many of which are receiving ongoing book donations.”

The organizations she has partnered with include:

  • LUCY Outreach (Lifting up Camden’s Youth) – organization providing after-school activities and programming to Camden’s youth.
  • Mighty Writers (Camden) – after-school programming/writing club for Camden’s youth
  • Osborn Family Center (Camden) federally funded free health clinic.
  • Providence House of Burlington County – provides social services to domestic violence survivors; ongoing donations to their safe houses.
  • Cradles to Crayons (Philadelphia).
  • Women Against Abuse (Philadelphia) provide books to two domestic violence safe houses.
  • Interfaith Rise – Highland Park – organization that assists refugees – donated to their ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and for book fair for their communities.
  • Angels Outreach (Pitman) – organization that provides needy families with food, clothing and other essentials.
  • Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office – created a book nook in their Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit for child witnesses.
  • Defender Association of Philadelphia Child Advocacy Unit – created a book nook for juveniles in placement or receiving services through family court.
  • Department of Children and Families, Burlington County – Division of Child Protection and Permanency – created a book nook for children in foster care receiving services at the agency.
  • Camden County Prosecutor’s Office – established a book nook for child victims and witnesses who accompany parents to the office.

Dunn has also established partnerships with Larry Abrams of BookSmiles in Pennsauken and Mercer County’s HomeFront. To date, the Book Nook Project has donated 2,885 books titles.

Dunn’s own inspiration to begin the Book Nook Project came from reading a book.

“A couple of years ago, I read ‘Invisible Child,’ by Andrea Elliott,” Dunn recalled. “This was simply the best book I’ve ever read and I highly recommend it. Elliott, a reporter for the New York Times, follows the Coates family, who live in housing projects in Brooklyn. Elliott’s book details the Coates’ family’s lives over the course of eight years.

“This book and Elliott’s reporting style completely opened my eyes to issues I had never known before,” Dunn added. “I was inspired by the book and wanted to do something to make a difference in the lives of people like the Coates family.”

Dunn wasn’t 100% sure where to start, but started to intertwine her personal interests.

“I’m an avid reader, so I’ve grown up understanding the value of books in kids’ lives,” she noted. “I landed on the idea to set up book nooks, and the Book Nook Project has taken off since. I’ve met so many amazing people, worked with incredible organizations, and have learned so much more about the often invisible struggles of poverty through this project.

“I’m proud of how far this project has come, but I’m even more excited to see how it will continue to expand in the future.”

Dunn has received the support of the Holy Cross community, with funds from the school’s Women Empowering Women Club, and is organizing a fundraiser for next school year. During this month, she is also holding a book drive. 

To donate, email thebooknookproject1@gmail.com and visit The Book Nook Project Instagram account, @the.booknookproject.

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