For the school year starting in September 2005, Washington DC Public Schools has embarked on a three-year project, the Toyota Book Initiative, to improve the library media centers of all elementary schools in Southeast DC.  This project was made possible by a generous $1.3 million grant from Toyota Motor Sales, USA and was managed by the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Skinner Leadership Institute. Together, these organizations committed to deliver 1,000 new books to each library media center in all 31 elementary schools in the region. 

Books were ordered through Baker & Taylor, the current DCPS book distributor.  This list of books considers both the DCPS curriculum and the demographics of the students.  Some of the books on this list also come from the reading list from Karibu Books, a specialty bookstore chain located in the greater Washington DC area, focusing on books by and about people of African descent. 

A key element of the Toyota Book Initiative was the opportunity to upgrade the library media centers in the 31 elementary schools in Southeast, DC.  The gift of new books is extremely generous, but the project aimed to make improvements beyond placing 31,000 books on the shelves.  The donation of books allows us to examine the needs of one of the most important, yet often neglected rooms in the school.  Facilities upgrades will be made to the library media centers, including new shelving, new computers, new furniture, a new inventory system and a whole host of other necessary changes which have been delayed because of lacking resources. 

The real objective of this project is to have the students read more. If students are excited about reading the new books provided, we have accomplished our goal.  The success of the Toyota Book Initiative was not measured by how many books are put on the shelves, but rather how many books come off the shelves. 

This project ended in 2008 but we are happy to share our knowledge and experience of the project. If you have any questions, please contact Erica Steen.