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Books for Girls In Detention: A Partnership Project

Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center | August 26, 2014

By Andrea Billups, communications extern

Former librarian Betty Frederick knows first hand how important books are to young girls, “I consider reading and the ability to read, the two single most important ingredients to unlocking the door to a better way of thinking, a better life and a more successful life.”

In March, Betty met Kara Williams, the Policy Center’s director of community organizing, at an International Women’s Day program and she was intrigued by the work the center does. So when Kara contacted her a week later and suggested a book cart for the Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center, she immediately said ‘yes.’

For 41 years, Betty has witnessed, “the positive effect—the value and importance of reading—how it makes a difference—changes people’s lives.”

The original idea for the small mobile library came about when Vice President of Community and Program Development Vicky Basra connected with Darrell Johnson, the superintendent of the detention center. “Having books available for the girls to read can only enhance their knowledge and help expand their reading abilities, therefore making them better students and citizens,” said Superintendent Johnson. Vicky added, “This program provides an ongoing invitation to girls in detention to embrace their internal strength, growth, and develop a deeper appreciation for the world of books, ideas, and education. Being able to take the books home allows for them to share this with their siblings and families expanding the gift of reading.”

The goal of the book cart is to provide girls between the ages of 10 and 18 with books that offer positive alternatives/role models along with books that are uplifting, funny and those that provide realistic expectations. Books are collected through donations to the Policy Center. Betty is also contacting libraries around St. John’s County seeking books available for donation.

When the Policy Center receives book donations, we vet the books for content and ensure the books are paperback. The program is set to begin August 25th and the book cart will include a variety of genres including reference books, science fiction books, magazines and books that provide helpful hints on a variety of topics such as writing papers and taking tests.

Girls may spend days or weeks in juvenile detention. Having books and interactions with a librarian may help girls cope with their current situation, increase access to positive resources and educational materials. The book cart provides an activity they can do on their own and it encourages positive community interaction.

Betty says, “I see wonderful possibilities that this service can offer. Books can be a gateway to making a difference in the lives of these young people. It can be the change— that helps to reduce hopelessness, anger, loneliness and despair, and yes, even recidivism. Giving girls books can be the single most important gift that we can give to young people who have temporarily lost their way.”

If you’re interested in donating books, please bring your donated books to 1022 Park Street, Suite 301, 32204 and ask for Biannela Susana, or email her at




40 East Adams, Suite 130
Jacksonville, FL 32202