Bronx librarian hopes to change lives and literacy rate by reading to children in shelters

THE BRONX, NY- Whether he’s reading or singing Colbert Nembhard finds his bliss in books.“It’s something that I enjoy, it’s my passion,” he smiled. Every Wednesday for the last eight years, he strolls into the SCO Family of Services ‘Crotona Inn” shelter for story time. “I need to do this to inspire these kids because of the environment, I don’t know what’s going on at home,” he explained. 

He comes stocked with a variety of books, toys and endless energy. "I don’t drink coffee it's natural," he laughed. "When I come here I make sure I bring something that will entice them. At that age group you need something very colorful, something that they can participate in.” Colbert is just one of the many volunteers part of the city’s “Library Pilot Project," which was recognized y the Library of Congress. But, his passion for pages came as a child growing up in Jamaica. “It started at a very young age, in my household we either played or read, no television,” Nembhard remembered.

He’s currently the branch manager at the Morrisania branch library in the Bronx and has been recognized for his nearly 40 years of service to the community. “It’s a sense of peace because it makes you become like one with the books,” he said. But from day one it was important for him to bring that knowledge and imagination to those who may not have access so he put his library on wheels. “My cart is very old, I think I’ve had my cart since in the 90s and it’s still going,” he laughed. “Just like me!"

Colbert spends most of his time with children, helping them during their most formative years. “It’s a right, for the child to know how to read and write,” he said adamantly. And having that consistent figure provides more for these kids than many realize. “It brings a bit of stability," Ronzetta Robinson, shelter director, explained. "It gives them that sense of community that families often don’t have because they’re often so transient.”

Colbert has a library degree but he says everyone can do what he does. “It doesn’t matter who you are, just volunteer and go into the shelters, because there’s kids in there that need your expertise, your help,” Nembhard said. And that’s what motivates him every single day because he believes no child should be left behind. “I’m nowhere near done because this is never done,” he smiled. 

 

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi