Books Brighten the Lives of Austin Elementary Students

Kiersten Teresi and Dana Sim, staff reporters

Most students cringe when they think of spending mass amounts of time with reading material. However, for the students of John Hay Community Academy in Chicago, a visit from Zack Saltzman, who started the volunteer project of bringing fresh sets of books to these inner city kids, completely brightens up their day.

Saltzman, a sophomore at South, got started with the project in seventh grade when his teacher told Saltzman that the school was in need.

What started as a Bar Mitzvah service project turned into something much more. Saltzman goes to John Hay three to four times a year now to read these children who are living in poverty.

“They’re always happy to see me and they’re always really enthusiastic,” Saltzman said.

Saltzman shares one of his best moments while doing this project.

“Last time I went, we brought this one sports book about Lebron James, and this one kid really liked it. He was like, ‘Zack can I have it?’ and I was like, ‘It’s yours!’ And apparently his house had burned down the previous night and he was living on the street with his mom. According to his teacher, he was brining [the book] everywhere.”

Saltzman’s father Paul believes that the kids really get a lot out of it, and wants to extend the project to more schools.

Saltzman talks about the overall experience, and what he gets out of it, as a personal gain.

“Some of these kids are homeless so they don’t have books and their parents aren’t really around to read to them. These books make an impact on them.”