Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sharing the joy of reading at the library

Walk into any branch of the Los Angeles Public Library on a weekday afternoon and you'll see hordes of kids clustered around the computers, every table filled with folks reading the paper or doing their homework or working on their laptops, parents and preschoolers hunkered down in the picture book section - and if you look carefully, you might see a library GAB volunteer, dressed in green or purple apron, reading a book to an enthralled child.

This quiet and powerful library reading program, started as a pilot program at three branches of the Los Angeles Public Library in 1989, can now be found at all 72 branches plus Central Library. GAB originally stood for Grandparents and Books because our volunteers were senior citizens. Now, with many of our reading volunteers in their 20s and 30s, we call the program Grown-ups and Books.

The idea is simple. Volunteers read to kids at the local library for two hours a day, once a week. They don't tutor, they don't teach - they simply read aloud to kids, one on one or in small groups, for the sheer joy of it, and also encourage beginning readers to read aloud. Many children don't hear books read aloud at home or at school, and so don't have the motivation or early literacy skills to learn to read. The GAB program aims to spread the pleasure of books and reading to as many children as possible, one kid at a time.

The GAB volunteers receive intensive training in the importance of reading aloud, how to choose books for different age groups, and the best ways to share books with kids. Most of our volunteers, whether they are 21 or 81, students or retired, are avid readers themselves and consider it a mission to pass on their love of books. They are an inspiration to the kids and also to librarians, who both value them and envy them. Although of course we offer storytimes and other programs, we don't have often have the time to simply sit down with a child and share a good book! Thank goodness for our GAB volunteers, who help us do the Good Work of spreading the love of reading.

For more information about the program, please call GAB at 213-228-7487.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing, Eva. I love that the program has transitioned from grandparents to grown-ups. The training you offer is such a gift for them as parents and parents-to-be!

  2. Hi Eva,

    GAB seems to stand for so many things. I've always thought of GAB as "Grab a Book," and then GAB about it with a grown-up:)

  3. What an excellent program, Eva!! I'm happy just knowing it's out there. And I love your point that the volunteers are "avid readers themselves and consider it a mission to pass on their love of books." That's kind of why I started my blog - but I love this community library-focused way to do it, too.

  4. It is wonderful to hear of an obviously booming library and workable, inspirational program.

    Sharing our passion for books is just as important as sharing our own stories!