Nonprofit builds home libraries for low-income families during COVID-19

Start Lighthouse Kits 1
Start Lighthouse Kits that will be handed out Friday.
Courtesy of Start Lighthouse

Libraries are shuttered due to COVID-19 and many low-income families do not have access to computers in their homes.

One newly created nonprofit, Start Lighthouse, realized this and on May 15, will be distributing 300 books to students at P.S. 5, in Port Morris.

Each child will receive literacy kits, which will have two books and supplemental resources to aid in student comprehension and further their engagement. According to co-founder Rina Madhani, “the resources are designed to become part of the daily reading routine and further cultivate a reading culture at home.”

“Books are luxury items for some families,” Madhani explained. “Right now students aren’t able to go out and buy new books for themselves.”

Madhani, who launched Start Lighthouse in March with her friend and former classmate at NYU, Brittany Kramer, said the goal is to foster literacy for students and families in the south Bronx. Given the current crisis, the need for providing access to literature has never been greater.

“A lot of people live in shelters and remote learning has not been accessible to everyone,” she explained. “There is a digital divide and not every kid has a laptop. What these kids really need are books they can hold and read at home.”

Madhani, 27, of Manhattan, does analytics for Success Academy Charter Schools and from 2015 to 2017 was a teacher in the south Bronx. As an educator, she already knew the struggle those children and families faced and now during the pandemic, their struggles are magnified.

So, she and Kramer, who is a medical student at Touro College, wanted to give back. The duo launched a virtual wish list where people could purchase books from independent sellers and Starlight would then distribute them to the community.

In total, they have collected 325 books.

“You don’t know the impact this is going to have on our communities and our families,” Danielle Keane, principal at P.S. 5 said to Madhani.

Madhani said they are in the process of being incorporated to a 501(c) (3) and the goal is to give away 1,000 books by the end of the year.

“We’re trying to create a reading culture,” she said. “There’s such a need for students to become proficient readers. I’m really excited to see where it goes. I hope we can shed a bit of light in these uncertain times.”

For those interested in learning more, contact

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