On November 25, 2020, in partnership with Welcome to Chinatown, Immigrant Social Services (ISS) launched the Read it Forward campaign.

Before the pandemic, many students relied on schools and public libraries for access to borrow books to bring home to read. Almost 50% of households in Chinatown and Lower East Side, lack internet access and even more do not have reliable internet access that is crucial for remote learning. The closing of public schools as well as public libraries during the pandemic means that students have lost significant access to books.

Together, we raised $26,000 in two weeks to purchase 1,500 books from Eastern Book Store NYC, one of the last (if not the last) remaining independent Chinese bookstores in Chinatown. These were distributed to 500 elementary school students at ISS partner school sites in Chinatown and Lower East Side.

Exceeding our fundraising goals, we were able to distribute an additional 1,200 books to 400 students in 6-8th grade at PS34 and MS131 in June 2021. For our second round of book distribution, students also received a free copy of the “History is Colorful” coloring book detailing different historical and contemporary Asian Americans figures, which were donated thanks to the generosity of ADMERASIA and #IAmNotAVirus. The goal of Read it Forward book drive is to increase students’ access and ownership of books that reflect multicultural experiences written by Asian, Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other People of Color (POC) authors.

The Read It Forward  fundraising campaign also worked with Lee & Low Books, one of the few independent and minority-owned multicultural children’s book publishers in the country.