Second of two parts

In the previous column, I described an exciting program called “My Own Book Fund,” which strives to help inner city school children. Specifically, I shared an interview with Dan Greenburg, one of the volunteers for the programs who is very excited about the impact which it’s having. In the first installment, we learned about Dan’s own background: how he learned about My Own Book Fund, how the program got started, its mechanics, why he chose to get involved along with his wife, Ivy, and the follow-up.

In short, the program involves giving third-graders from some of the poorest neighborhoods a $50 gift to browse through the children’s section at a Barnes & Noble and make purchases of their own. Many of these kids never, ever had a book in their homes. This was something brand new to them.

STEVE KUSSIN: How would you describe the rewards of being part of My Own Book Fund? 

DAN GREENBURG: At the beginning, we were shocked to discover that almost none of the children with whom we worked had ever been to a bookstore. Making that visit is such an important part of our lives; this program brought home to us just how privileged we are to take going to a bookstore for granted.

K: Describe what you’ve observed.

G: Just watching the kids enter the store in wide-eyed amazement that such a gigantic place filled with books actually exists is thrilling to experience. We take it for granted; they don’t. Their excitement as they buzz around the store picking out books, sharing their discoveries with their friends, teachers, and us never gets old. 

K: In what schools and districts does the program operate? 

G: My Own Book Fund operates in all five boroughs of New York City. My wife Ivy and I work with PS 105 in Far Rockaway. As I mentioned, the program has already served five thousand third graders.

K: What is the connection to the New York City Department of Education?

G: Originally, all our financial transactions went through the DOE, but a few years ago we formed our own not-for-profit organization and now operate independently. However, the DOE has agreed to supply buses to transport the kids to the Barnes & Noble closest to their schools. 

K: I believe you had a special guest speaker …

G: Yes, we did. At our annual volunteer meeting several years ago, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina attended. She was familiar with our program and urged our volunteers to continue their good work of inspiring children to read more and to bring the program into children’s homes.

K: Does My Book Fund receive any private funding?

G: The organization is primarily funded by its founder, Burt Freeman, along with donations from individuals and corporate donors. We have been fortunate to have received such funding from Bloomberg Charitable Giving, B.J’s, and the Helmsley Foundation, among others.

K: Are there any plans to expand the program?

G: We would love to. At present, we have a waiting list of Title I schools that want to join the program and participate. However, like most charitable organizations, our growth is limited by our funding, but not by our passion to expand to more schools in New York City. As a matter of fact, we would like to come out to Long Island as well.

K: How can an individual make a donation for this wonderful cause?

G: Just go to our website at A gift of any amount would be greatly appreciated — and would help the children.

K: And how can a person get involved as a volunteer? 

G: If you’re interested, contact Jennifer Stark, our executive director, at

K: I always conclude these interviews the same way: Is there any question which I didn’t ask, which you would like to answer?”

G: Yes, there is one. The future is bringing a great challenge to My Own Book Fund. It comes from the Internet. Because of websites like Amazon, bookstores are closing at an alarming rate. Some chains have already shut down. Regretfully, we may have to change our model and focus on purchasing books by computer. It certainly would take the joy away from the children’s blissfully wandering around a bookstore searching for that book which is just right for them. Until then, however, My Own Book Fund will uniquely provide kids with a fun way to buy books that they can take home to start their own libraries.

K: Dan, I salute you for the wonderful work you and Ivy are doing for this most worthwhile cause. I hope our readers will feel the same way and get involved, either as supporters or volunteers.

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Dr. Steven Kussin was a high school principal for 21 years. You can hear his “CBS on Education” reports three times a day weekdays on WCBS Newsradio 880. He is also an adjunct professor at Hofstra University and an educational consultant for school districts around the country.  Contact him at