When Scarsdale teen Zoe Kleinman celebrated her bat mitzvah a few years ago, she saved up the gifts she received for education—but unlike so many other teens, it wasn’t set aside for her own college fund. Instead, she set up a foundation.

Along with her friend Samantha Hirschhorn, a co-Chair of the Why We Read project, Zoe uses the funds to distribute books to kids in need. A longtime volunteer on campus, along with her mother Wendy, Zoe worked with JCCA campus staff this summer to identify a wide selection—appealing to a range of ages, literacy levels, and interests—to donate to residents of the Pleasantville Cottage School and the Pleasantville START program. Children were invited to a “book grab,” where they could select one or two titles to bring home, with the remainder donated to the campus library.

As the kids filtered into the Pleasantville Cottage School dining room, they shyly approached tables and started leafing through the books. “I’ve already read these,” a young man said proudly when he saw the Dog Man series, and turned to another table where he picked up James Patterson’s I Funny. “This one looks awesome!” Older teens gravitated toward the Twilight series, while Zoe and Sam navigated among them making recommendations and comparing favorites.

Only nine miles from Scarsdale, the Pleasantville Cottage Campus can seem like a whole other world. But for Zoe, Sam, and the young people on campus, a love of reading is all they need to build an instant and lasting connection.