The power of a book in a child's hands, learning how to read, write and think.
There's nothing quite like it.
"My friends don’t have the opportunity that I have," Sadiel Acosta, a 12-year-old participant, said. "Sometimes they get jealous!”
That opportunity is a free family literacy program offered by the Brooke Jackman Foundation. We attended the one at the NYC Family Justice Center in Manhattan.
“We serve our programs through city and county agencies," Erin Jackman, executive director, said. "They predominantly have families that are at or under the poverty line.”
A mission to mold minds and help those less fortunate instilled since day one.
“On September 11th, my sister Brooke was killed in the World Trade Center attacks when she was 23,” Jackman remembered. “She had just started work at Cantor Fitzgerald on the agency desk on the 104th floor.”
Brooke told her mom the night before that she was planning to go back to school to pursue her real passion: becoming a social worker to help kids.
“Brooke was amazing, she was my best friend not only my sister,” Jackman smiled. "She was smart and beautiful and she loved to read. She always had a book in her hands since the time she could read."
So Erin and her family started the foundation to do what Brooke never got a chance to do.
The foundation offers several other programs like BookPals and Brooke's Cooks. It also has four Brooke Jackman Libraries across the city.
At the non-profit's Family Literacy Program, families are gives free metrocards to help with their commute, a nourishing meal, an arts project and a reading session.
“We read it and we get to take it home,” Zahirah Castillo, one of the child participants, said.
"It is very important for us right now," Alexandra Castillo, Zahirah's mom, added. "We are having some hard times in our family so this is like a relaxation time for us."
But this program is also helping kids in the classroom.
“He went up a reading level," Aminta Nunez, attends program with her son, smiled. "Actually two, we are very proud!”
The Brooke Jackman Foundation reaches thousands of kids across the tri-state area.
“We’ve given out more than 250,000 books since we started," Jackman said. "We have given out more than 30,000 Brooke Packs.”
An effort the entire family helps with.
“Thinking I did a good deed for my Aunt because I know she’s smiling down on us doing this," Blake Jackman, Erin and Brooke's niece said.
"[This is] exactly what she would've want to do," Elle Jackman, Erin and Brooke's niece, added. "For us to be doing it, it just makes me feel really good.”
Erin believes every kid the foundation helps keeps her sister all that much closer.
"I think they’re part of the Jackman family each and every one,” Jackman said.
Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi