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Legal Aid Society launches program to provide books for kids in court

December 27, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Legal Aid Society worked with Judge Craig Walker to help launch the "Let Them Read" program, which will provide books to kids in the Brooklyn Adolescent and Young Adult Diversion Court as part of a pilot program. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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The Legal Aid Society announced on Thursday a new campaign alongside book publisher Penguin Random House called “Let Them Read,” which will bring books into courtroom for kids to read while they wait for their cases to start.

This breaks a long tradition where books were not allowed in the court, despite long routine waits for defendants.

Now people in the Brooklyn Adolescent and Young Adult Diversion Court, which serves people age 16-24, will have access to approximately 200 books to read in the courtroom. They’re allowed to keep the books, too, and Legal Aid said that hundreds have already been given away.

“What better way to help stimulate a mind in a positive way than to provide a book?” asked Hon. Craig S. Walker, presiding judge of the Criminal Term Youth Part, Kings County Supreme Court.

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“It may seem like a small and meaningless gesture to some, but if we want these young people to aspire to do better, we need to provide them with the right tools in order for them to achieve their goals. That starts right there, in the courtroom. I only hope that this can be a model that other courtrooms might start using in the future.”

The hope is that this will be especially helpful for students who might be forced to miss school for a court date.

“Giving someone a book is giving them the opportunity to learn something new,” said Noor Ahmad, staff attorney the Brooklyn Trial Office at the Legal Aid Society. “At any age — but especially during your adolescence — that knowledge has the power to change what you believe is possible not just for yourself, but also for the world to which you are connected. For our clients, this has a unique significance.”

This is just a pilot program that starts in Brooklyn, but if successful, Legal Aid hopes to see it expand to all courts across the city.

“We at Penguin Random House are so pleased to support the vital work of the Legal Aid Society and this very important pilot,” said Madeline McIntosh, chief executive officer at Penguin Random House. “We look forward to providing Legal Aid with books for the collection at Brooklyn’s Youth Court and other libraries, and to connecting the young people they represent with books that we hope will inform, entertain and inspire.”

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