Child-literacy group honored for bringing libraries back to schools

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

by Kofi Biney

The mere idea of having access to a school library is a slim hope for many Philadelphia students. But one organization has been changing all that.

The West Philadelphia Alliance for Children, a child-literacy advocacy group, was honored by City Council last week for its work reopening shuttered public school libraries in the city.

The group, often referred to as WePAC, first caught the attention of City Council via Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who, according to WePAC executive director David Florig, fell in love with the organization’s work in bringing school libraries back from the dead.

“She introduced a resolution to City Council to honor our work on behalf of children and working to increase their literacy skills,” said Florig.

Since WePAC started its school library initiative three years ago, the group has managed to reopen 16 closed school libraries in the city’s public schools. They now operate 12 of them, serving 5,100 students, said Florig.

The group relies heavily on volunteers, and Florig sees City Council’s proclamation as a positive step.

“Having City Council members hear about our work, and to help us in recruiting volunteers who can work in the schools, is a great thing. Hopefully our volunteer pool increases, and we’re able to open more and more libraries throughout the city.”

Kofi Biney is an intern at the Notebook.