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'Buffalo Books' raising money for literacy, access and awareness

You have probably noticed little free libraries throughout Western New York, well now a Buffalo woman has put her own twist on them.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Students all over the City of Buffalo are struggling academically.

"So that is not exclusive to the East Side," said Jillian Hanesworth, the founder of Buffalo Books. "But I am from the East Side and I know from growing up that the East Side is historically like excluded from a lot of the progress that is made in Buffalo. When we see things happen it's coming to Elk Grove Village or it's coming to downtown."

After seeing little library boxes in other communities, Hanesworth wanted to see them in hers.

"I was like, what if these were on the East Side, like where people need them most right now, where students who can't go to school could access it," Hanesworth said. "Where parents who now have to help their kids do homework, that they probably never had to do themselves, can go and get a book and kind of get into that pattern of reading and assessment."

Hanesworth is dyslexic.

"I did not know I was dyslexic until I was a junior in college. I was academically dismissed from school and had to appeal to get back in, and I was like why am I not doing well like I know the material, why is this not translating when I am taking tests and writing papers, and I found out that I was dyslexic," Hanesworth said. 

"It took me back to being a kid and not knowing the difference between a lower case 'b' and 'd.' And my teacher being like write 'ball' a hundred times and write 'dog' a hundred times, this is like, this is not teaching me. This is not educating me. So that was one part of it. We need to invest, really invest in ourselves and in these kids because a lot of times, any issue they may be having could be swept under the rug or go unnoticed for their entire academic career."

She wants to make books more accessible and increase literacy.

"A lot of what we learn in school is not fully accurate it does not pick our experience. When you learn about slavery little Black kids should not be taught their history began in chains. It didn't. Their ancestors weren't slaves. They were doctors, healers, storytellers," she said. 

"I thought this project could put books in kids' hands that are accurate and depicts their experience in a while that is respectful and honest and that encourages them as opposed to just makes them feel like they just have to come from nothing because you don’t. You have something in there. There is something in these books and they can really open your eyes to the world."

Watch more about Buffalo's first Poet Laureate with Claudine Ewing on commUNITY.

And that's how Buffalo Books was born with a focus on local.

"So, the students, the kids, the parents that read these books can actually relate not only to the content in the book, but to the person that wrote the book. It might be the person who lives around the block from you," she said.

After putting the libraries on the East Side, she plans to expand to other communities.

"We need to make sure that the learning doesn't stop in the school because everybody's issues are not going to get picked up while they're in those halls, some things we got to figure out while they are at home, so that is why I think this project could really help do that," Hanesworth said.

As soon as the ground isn't frozen, you will be able to see them on the East Side. Right now, Hanesworth has 10 boxes built. She hopes to have another 25 built by the end of summer. 

This is a community effort. If you would like to help, you can click here.