It started out as a one-time bat-mitzvah project. But three years, 5,000 books, and almost 200 volunteering hours later, Lilli Leight is nowhere near putting her literary mission to rest.
While volunteering at a Miami homeless shelter, Leight, 15, noticed that the kids would turn on the television after finishing their homework, because they didn’t have access to books, Your Olive Branch reports. That’s when the Coral Gables, Fla., resident was inspired to start a library for homeless kids at the Chapman Partnership’s Homeless Assistance Center in Miami.
For her efforts, Leight was one of five recipients of the Innovations in Reading award by the National Book Foundation -- and is the youngest person to ever win the award, the Miami Herald reports.
“The thing with Lilli’s [project] is she connected things beautifully," Leslie Shipman, director of programs for the foundation, told the news source. "She took something you do alone and found so many ways to involve the wider community. We tend to get a lot of book clubs and librarians who are great and creative, but that’s not enough.”
Getting homeless children in the habit of reading at a young age is certainly critical in Leight’s home state. Less than 25 percent of Florida's homeless kids graduate high school, according to Your Olive Branch.
The avid reader and volunteer explained her motivation for continuing her initiative in an interview with the Miami Herald.
"I think everyone should be given an opportunity to find a book they love.”