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Keeping literacy alive - Foundation donates books

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Around 100 school-aged children who gathered at PS 250 (108 Montrose Avenue) last Thursday whetted their reading appetites before the start of the school year when they received free gift-wrapped books.

The books came courtesy of the Brooke Jackman Foundation, a non-profit founded in memory of a 9/11 victim whose family is determined to keep alive her love of reading even after her tragically premature death at the age of 23. Thursday’s event coincided with what would have been Jackman’s 30th birthday.

The family-run foundation – which began in 2001, shortly after the attacks, but has since grown exponentially – presented the event along with St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation. The organizations have shared a partnership since the foundation’s early days, bounded together by a shared focus on literacy, particularly family literacy.

Jackman, a Columbia University graduate, was working at Cantor Fitzgerald on the day of the attacks and was one of the 658 company employees who perished. But her true passion was reading and working with children, according to her family.

“The night before the attacks, my sister told my mom that there was more to life than making money,” said Erin Jackman, Brooke’s sister and the executive director of the Foundation. “Brooke had decided to apply to graduate school for social work. So we’re doing what she didn’t get to do.”

Added her mother, Barbara Jackman: “It embodies her spirit, so in this way, it’s a way for us to keep her spirit alive. We want to do something to pass on her love of reading.”

St. Nicholas has made child literacy a hallmark of their youth programs, reaching out particularly to parents for whom English is a second language.

“We infuse everything with literacy education,” said Michael Rochford, executive director of St. Nicholas. “It’s a fundamental building block, really the gateway to learning.”

Last Thursday’s event at PS 250 represented the kickoff of the Foundation’s annual “Book in Hand” initiative, a series of similar programs that will run through September 11 and result in 10,000 books being given away to disadvantaged children from the New York City area.

In the past seven years, the foundation has established two libraries in Manhattan and started Family Literacy workshops for more than 1,000 families in Brooklyn and Washington Heights. This past August, the foundation gave away 2,000 “Brook Packs” – backpacks filled with books, books on tape, a Walkman with batteries, and school supplies – to children living in temporary housing throughout the area.

In addition to the book give-away, last Thursday’s event featured an author’s reading of the children’s book The Nina, the Pinta, and the Vanishing Treasure, a new children’s book by New York City author Jill Santopolo. A moving slide-show tribute to Brooke Jackman was also shown at the event.

The Jackman family approaches this busy time of year with mixed emotions. On one hand, it is a very active time for their foundation. On the other hand, it brings forth profound sadness about losing their beloved daughter.

“It’s great to do these things, but this is always a very, very tough time of the year,” said Bob Jackman, Brooke’s father.

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