Joan Dichter quizzes kids at P.S. 1 in Chinatown about books they’ve recently purchased. She is a volunteer with “My Own Book,” an organization that encourages third graders to love reading by financing their personal libraries.

“The love of reading, the love of books, it’s just wonderful,” Dichter told the children. “And this is something you’re going to have with you the rest of your lives.”

What You Need To Know

  • Joan Dichter is a volunteer with "My Own Book," an organization that helps third-graders build their own home libraries

  • She was a teacher for 40 years in Chinatown

  • Dichter visits the students at school and takes them on a shopping spree

Dichter was on staff as a teacher at P.S. 1 for almost 30 years before retiring in 2014. Even though these kids were not yet in the building when Dichter left, she has been working with them for months.

Each year, Dichter escorts the “My Own Book” students to local bookstores.NY1 joined her as she visited kids at the Union Square Barnes & Noble back in January.

“I love it,” Dichter said. “And you can see the enthusiasm.”

Each student gets 60 dollars to spend on books for themselves—not for their brothers or sisters.

This shopping trip starts with a talk about different books. They go through the rules, like the limit on graphic novels. Then it’s time to browse the shelves.

Dichter works with the kids, reading the books aloud to make sure it’s an appropriate reading level and that it follows the organization’s purchasing guidelines.

“Books and the pleasure you get from books,” she said. “There’s nothing like it.”

Fast forward a few months after their shopping trip,, the students share their stories…and what the books did for them.

“To give children ownership to make, to choose them and to make them books they will enjoy reading, hopefully for many years and pass them onto generations,” Dichter said.

For helping to build a love for literacy, Joan Dichter is our New Yorker of the Week.