An assistant state attorney general issued a challenge: Deploy a secret weapon to make young New Haveners healthier, happier, and more successful in school.
The secret weapon: Books.
For the third year, the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General William Bumbus (pictured), is heading up a statewide book drive, gathering and distributing reading material for young people. He showed up in New Haven Wednesday afternoon to challenge the city to help him meet his goal of collecting 50,000 books by the end of August, and collecting more than the town of Waterbury, which has already amassed some 2,500 volumes.
Bumpus attended an afternoon press conference on Bristol Street at New Haven Reads, an agency that collects and hands out books and offers tutoring to young people. New Haven Reads chief Kirsten Levinsohn and Mayor Toni Harp spoke about the transforming effect that books can have on young people. Reading leads to success in school and in life, the mayor said.
Harp (pictured) accepted Bumpus’ challenge. She said the city will collect “gently used” children’s books at City Hall. She has asked all city department heads to participate.
“We can build a city of readers, one child at a time,” Levinsohn (pictured) said. She said the book bank last year handed out 140,000 books, many of which came from Bumpus’ book drive. People can also drop off books at New Haven Reads, at 45 Bristol St.
“The key to being truly successful is literacy,” Bumpus said.
Bumpus said he started the first book drive after holding a series of positions—police officer, attorney, associate dean at Central Connecticut State Unviersity—in which he dealt with young people who sometimes had gone down the wrong path. He said he wants to ensure better outcomes for young people by exposing them to books and reading at an early age.
Most important are the basic books—letters, numbers, colors—he said. Those can have the most impact on infants and toddlers at crucial stages in their development.
After the press conference, Harp handed out copies of OMG ... Am I A Witch?, a children’s book written by state Rep. Toni Walker’s daughter, Talia Aikens-Nuñez. Harp then took a tour of New Haven Reads, visiting a back room where tutors and tutees were quietly reading together amid shelves and shelves of books, the secret to success.