Turning Pages: RHS junior delivers more than 20,000 books

Before agreeing to any plans with her friends, Ridgefield High School junior Meredith Karle looks through her highly detailed planner to find some white space.

Karle is the founder of Turning Pages, a non-profit organization that distributes books to area low-income schools and libraries. Her foundation, as well as other philanthropic endeavors and extracurriculars, drive her to be organized, follow self-imposed deadlines, and leave her with little free time.

But, she makes the busy schedule work.

“Being accountable to myself is something I’m always working on,” she said.

Over the last two years, she has completed 400 hours of community service –– growing Turning Pages, participating in shoe drives, and tie-dyeing pillowcases for children with long-term illnesses –– an accomplishment that helped her win the Congressional Award, given to young Americans by the United States Congress.

She became active in community service five years ago when she co-founded Turning Pages with her cousin, Madeline Fouts, in Rye, N.Y.

“We wanted to share our love of reading with the world and the local community,” Karle said.

“I had read somewhere that the single biggest predictor of academic success is the presence of books in the home.”

Karle and Fouts began by reaching out to their Rye community and redistributing used books.

Three years ago, Karle moved to Ridgefield and started a Turning Pages club at her new high school.

Turning Pages here has 20 active members, who have been responsible for redistributing 20,000 books that they store in their homes and deliver to organizations in need.

The foundation has provided book collections to Danbury Family Children’s Aid Center, Fort Lee Education Center (New Jersey), Lawrenceville School Camp (New Jersey), and the Carver Center in Port Chester, N.Y.

Members also helped replenish books in a Long Island classroom after Hurricane Sandy.

“Most teachers spend their own money to fill their classrooms,” Karle said. “And all of it was destroyed, so we helped.”

Local partners

Turning Pages has partnered with Ridgebury Elementary School, where members  read to kindergarteners and first graders once a month.

Karle’s family helps support what she loves. They help her solicit books, and even her mom’s friends bring some by from time to time.

The teen said the organization’s mission keeps growing.

In addition to filling school and camp libraries, Turning Pages focuses on fundraising and global outreach.

“When I was younger, I was focused more locally,” she said. “As I got older, and became more aware, I reached out to our global community.”

Sponsorships

The foundation has raised more than $2,000 for two children they sponsor living in Nepal and Sierra Leone.

“Making an impact there has shown me that these children — before they can even think about learning and education — need clean water, food, even a classroom to learn in,” Karle said.

She imagines a future in the nonprofit world and plans to major in business, although she doesn’t know where yet.

Beyond college, she wants a job that will allow her to have a tangible effect on the betterment of her local and global community.

“I really like being able to see the impact that I am making,” she said.

“We receive letters from the children that we sponsor, seeing that we’re helping real people has been something very important.”

To get involved, give away books, or donate to Turning Pages, contact Meredith Karle: karlemeredith@gmail.com.