My Own Book, Winner of the 2011 Innovations in Reading Prize

When Burt Freeman retired as general counsel of a major New York City bank twelve years ago, he put his energy toward creating a charitable venture that would promote literacy for New York City children. The concept behind My Own Book is amazing in its simplicity: Third-grade children from inner-city schools go on a class trip to a bookstore where My Own Book volunteers help the children purchase $50 worth of books to help start and build their own personal libraries. A program that began in 1999 with only one school and one volunteer—Burt—My Own Book has grown to include 73 volunteers who serve 43 schools allowing over 2,500 students to enjoy the opportunity to purchase their very own books. While the kids are thrilled by the trip, there is no one more energized than Burt. As My Own Book’s most active volunteer, Burt revels in his interactions with the children as he helps them find books that are just right for them. Burt’s remarkable vision, generosity, and passion for sharing his own love of learning with children in need have made this program a great success.