Bennett Elementary School

Dear Reader . . .

Imagine how it would feel if the words on this page looked like nothing more than a jumble of letters. Imagine – if only for a moment – living your life with the inability to read beyond the level of a fourth grader. Just imagine not being able to read to your own child.    

Feeding the community’s need to read while raising funds for literacy programs to benefit thousands of school children and adults alike, Bookstock –  Metro Detroit’s Biggest & Best Used Book Sale – returns to Laurel Park in Livonia, Sunday, May 15, to Sunday, May 22.

A project of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), which serves as its institutional home, Bookstock marks its 14th year generating more than a million dollars in proceeds to benefit reading programs in schools and adult educational projects throughout the city of Detroit as well as Wayne and Oakland Counties.

Bennett Elementary
Noting improved reading skills in 3rd graders, Kaity Nicastri, Community School Site Coordinator at Bennett Elementary School, (featured above), works as a liaison with JDLC to set a regular schedule for tutors two days a week.

Turning Bargain Books into Better Readers

As you browse through Bookstock for your pleasure in May, note that the one of many projects, which your purchase supports, is JCRC’s work on behalf of literacy – work that goes on year-round throughout the community. Literally, tons of books are collected, sorted and sold each year, thanks to more than 800 volunteers who work together to organize and staff the sale. After the sale each year, charities are invited to collect the unsold books and put them back into the hands of readers through their nonprofit organizations.

Bookstock’s partner organizations include Akiva Hebrew Day School, B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, Brandeis University, Delta Kappa Gamma, Frankel Jewish Academy, Hadassah-Greater Detroit Chapter, Hillel Day School PTO, Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, JCRC, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit Women’s Philanthropy, National Council of Jewish Women, Oakland Literacy Council and ORT America.

Bennett Elementary
Now in its 14th year, Bookstock has generated more than a million dollars to benefit reading programs in schools and adult literacy projects.

Beyond Bookstock

The literacy programs and coalitions that benefit from Bookstock are far-reaching, enlisting hundreds of volunteer tutors, educators and nonprofit organizations throughout the region. Two programs established through the partnerships Bookstock has forged in the community include:

  • Detroit Jewish Coalition for Literacy (DJCL), a project of JCRC,  annually recruits, trains and mobilizes volunteers as tutors for grades K-3 at 40 schools throughout Detroit and Oakland County. Through Bookstock funding, DJCL has worked with the nonprofit Southwest Solutions to establish tutoring partnerships with Bennett, Durfee and Earhart Elementary Schools, as well as many other Detroit Public Schools. Plans are underway to add  programs at Harms and Priest Elementary Schools.
  • NCJW, a Bookstock partner, runs a “Back to School Store” each fall. Last year, their Back Pack Project donated nearly 1,000 filled back packs to homeless children. NCJW volunteers also tutor at Coleman E. Young School in Detroit, where they have purchased supplies for the tutors as well as some materials for the library.

Launched in 2012, the Bookstock Fund now sponsors a variety of micro-grants to schools, as well as reading programs, book clubs and learning curriculums. With a recent grant to Michigan Reads, Bookstock Funds bought 1,200 copies of the book Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret so that the students could participate in the program.

Bennett Elementary
Bennett Elementary serves more than 500 students from pre-K through 5.

A visit to Bennett Elementary School

Walk through the bright blue doors of Bennett Elementary School on Mullane Street and immediately you know what brings volunteer tutors to class each week with their arms filled with books. It’s the kids! Hungry to learn. And the teachers — giving them their all.  And the need for all to succeed.

Located in the heart of Springwells Village – a vibrant, culturally rich neighborhood in Southwest Detroit and home to nearly 17,000 residents – Bennett Elementary serves more than 500 students from pre-K through 5. Additionally, the school provides a hub for community activities, ESL tutoring and other adult classes and workshops. Between 70 and 80 percent of the students at Bennett are fluent in Spanish or Arabic, with English a second language spoken in their homes. For many of these children, learning to read can be a struggle.

With the goal to build a bridge between the Jewish community and a close-knit Latino community in Detroit, the DJCL found a perfect match at Bennett through the advice of Ruby Robinson, Supervising Attorney with the Michigan Immigration Rights Center.

“Bennett has been exceptionally welcoming to our volunteers,” says Sue Birnholtz, DJLC Chair. Working with Kaity Nicastri, Community School Site Coordinator at Bennett Elementary, Sue implemented a workable program, setting a regular schedule for tutors two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays in two shifts, 10-11:30 a.m. and 1-3:30 p.m. “This is the first year of the program and it will continue” says Sue, “As the months have flown by, our tutors have become real adjuncts to their classes and deeply committed to the students. Some of the tutors are spending the full day at the school.”

Third grade students at Bennett Elementary
Third grade students build pyramid blocks in preparation for Bennett Elementary’s Multicultural Fair

It’s mid-morning in Mrs. Elizabeth Mohammed’s 3rd grade class and we find her students  building pyramids, counting in Arabic, drawing murals depicting ancient Egypt – all in preparation for the school’s Multicultural Fair. The 3rd grade class next door – wielding paint brushes and cutting yarn – is weaving the story of Ethiopia. In both classrooms, the children are animated, engaged and working beautifully together. It’s easy to fall in love with the children here.

“When the tutors walk through these doors, the children run up to them,” says Mrs. Mohammed, “They can’t wait to get started and they thrive on the one-on-one attention. At the start of the year, many were unable to read on the third grade level. Now all of them read through their books. Their motivation and their fluency have improved by leaps and bounds and I attribute that 100% to our tutors.”



Volunteers welcome!

For more information on Bennett School or other programs of the Detroit Jewish Coalition for Literacy, please call Sandy Lippitt Programs Coordinator 248-642-2649 or For more information about Bookstook, call the Bookstock hotline (248) 645-7840, ext. 365 or visit