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Central Islip residents heed Obama's call to service

Inspired by calls from President-elect Barack Obama for Americans to do service in their communities, a group of residents from the Central Islip area Friday donated scores of books, including many bilingual tomes, to a local library and to local educational programs for children.

Central Islip for Obama members began purchasing books and collecting them from friends, neighbors and businesses when the group formed last summer. Members have accumulated about 500 books, most of which feature English along with another language, such as Spanish or Creole.

"This whole donation is not just about one person," said Anthony Fowora, a Central Islip for Obama committee member. "It's about all of us."

At an event attended by Reps. Tim Bishop and Steve Israel at the Central Islip Public Library Friday, the group, which has about 15 members, donated more than 100 children's books to the library. Books and clothing were also donated to Head Start programs in Brentwood and Central Islip.

During her three decades as a bilingual teacher in the Central Islip school district, Lucy Bonilla collected more than 100 bilingual and ethnic books, including "El cuento de Pedrito Conejo," about Peter Rabbit.

Bonilla donated dozens of those books to the library Friday. "And I still have more if you need them," she said. "I wanted to leave it in my community."

The Central Islip library has more than 500 bilingual and ethnic children's books, but finding titles to purchase can be difficult because they are typically produced in fewer numbers than English books, said library director Paul Facchiano.

"They're hard to come by," he said.

As the Latino population in Central Islip increases, the books become even more important to the library, Facchiano said. "Libraries reflect the communities they serve," he said, "and ours is a diverse community."

Ethnic book collections targeting nonnative English speakers are "pretty common" in public libraries that cater to those constituents, said Michael Borges, executive director of the Albany-based New York Library Association.

"As populations change over time," he said, "so do library collections."

Carol Sheffer, president of the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association, said the demand for ethnic books increases when more immigrants move into communities.

"As we become a more global society, everybody realizes it's not just the people in their community they need to understand," she said. "They need to understand the world in general."

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