For more than a quarter of a century, the Bookbinders Guild of New York and its successor, The Book Industry Guild of New York, has worked to support and promote literacy. Through a variety of events and a strong relationship with The Literacy Assistance Center more than $400,000 was raised over the years for literacy programs in New York City. Countless books were collected from the publishing community and distributed to children both at our annual fundraiser for literacy in New York’s Central Park as well as through donations to such organizations as Care for the Homeless, and even the US Marine Corps!

Recently, The Guild has joined the campaign for racial awareness and equality. Out of that incentive we donated $10,000 to Urban Word to be used to support their NYC Youth Poet Laureate program, which both encourages and supports young writers and rewards leadership and civic engagement. This community outreach is another program enabling the Guild to support the creative endeavors of many young writers and future leaders.

To understand the Guild’s commitment, one needs to step back and look at the beginnings and the history of Promote Literacy.

The Beginnings

The Bookbinders’ Guild of New York was established in 1926 and has a long history in the publishing community. However, in 1992, some 66 years later, the then-President and ex-President (Janet McCarthy Grimm / Sally McCravey) decided that the Guild needed to support a worthy cause that was very close to all of us in the book industry and elect a new President that would follow this charge. We were then, and still are, a not-for-profit, and there were excess funds with which folks felt we could do some good.

Enter Paul Stanley, the new President-elect fresh from the UK. He took the charge and ran with it. A brief synopsis / timeline of our involvement follows:

  • A scrap yard in Nebraska (1992) – We called an 800 number for Literacy America to ask where we could “invest” in something to do with literacy. The poor lady who answered was based in a Nebraska scrap yard of all places, working to connect people nationally with “anything” have to do with literacy.
  • “Nebraska” suggested we contact the New York City Mayor’s office and discuss with them our desire to make a New York connection with a literacy program or organization. The Mayor’s office forwarded us to the Literacy Assistance Center in downtown Manhattan.
  • The Literacy Assistance Center was delighted to meet with us! Together we developed a grassroots program and named it “The Bookbinders’ Guild Awards for Library Development”
  • The Guild’s “Promote Literacy Campaign” launched in 1992.
  • We reached out to both the Mayor of New York and the White House in Washington D.C and received letters of support from Mayor David Dinkins (April 14, 1992) and Barbara Bush (May 13, 1992), respectively. Communications from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani were received in later years.
  • Our first event was held Saturday, August 29, 1992, in Central Park as our inaugural Charity Softball Game against WNEW-FM 102.7. The radio station has since become defunct, but back in in its day it was one of the most popular radio stations in the country.
  • Our second event—the first of our six daredevil fundraisers– was the “Bungee Jump for Literacy” (Summer 1993).
  • Another event—the “Bike Ride for Literacy” took place during the Great Five-Borough Bike Tour (August 1998). Six members of the Guild sought sponsors and raised $3,000.
  • The 15th Annual Literacy Recognition Awards Ceremony was held Friday, June 2, 2000. This ceremony was sponsored entirely by the Bookbinders’ Guild of New York. The Guild went on to sponsor this event for more than ten years.
  • More daredevil events and softball games followed over the years, and continues today with our annual softball event, which passed its 25th anniversary game in 2019, and features a children’s book giveaway to any child that passes by the field during the game, and fosters a fun-filled afternoon while raising money and awareness in Central Park.

Why Literacy?

  • There was an enormous community need
  • All about books!
  • A great cause

Why The Literacy Assistance Center?

  • Established in the literacy community
  • Aware of all needy programs
  • Grassroots program established – “Bookbinders’ Awards for Library Development”
  • Best of all: Every dollar raised went to LAC’s programs, and today helps support LAC’s ongoing advocacy programs

Today

Literacy Needs, Literacy Solutions (courtesy LAC)

  • The disturbing truth about literacy in New York
  • 44% of all New Yorkers over the age of 16 were born outside the United States
  • 2.2 million adults in NYC lack a high school diploma, English language proficiency, or both. Every New Yorker who earns a high school diploma or its equivalent generates a net economic benefit to NYC of more than $324,000 over their lifetime due to increased earnings/tax contributions and decreased benefit utilization

Most of these Americans can:

  • Locate a piece of information in a sports article
  • Total a blank deposit entry

They cannot:

  • Locate an intersection on a ramp
  • Fill out a Social Security card application
  • Calculate the total cost of a purchase on an order form

Why Literacy Matters:

  • According to a 2010 report from the National Institutes for Health, “A mother’s reading skill is the greatest determinant of her child’s future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income.”

Benefits for Learners and their families:

  • Better health
  • Better jobs
  • More active participation in their children’s education
  • Higher standard of living

Benefits for the entire community:

  • A healthier, happier, better informed, more active citizenry
  • Decreased expenditures for public health, public assistance, and corrections
  • A well-educated workforce