"If you can't read, if your classmate can't read, if your students can't read, then we're already in the middle of the storm," said author Solomon Jones while at Bartram High School in Southwest Philadelphia on Wednesday.
His visit was part of the kickoff for "Read for Your Life," an initiative to get more books and more reading into student life.
"Reading gives you exposure to things outside of our own realm of achievement, just by picking up a book," said Principal Constance McAlister.
English teacher Cheryl McFadden told Action News that, when she went into school administration, she found many classrooms were without books and that exposure.
"There was a definite urgency and I needed to come to our Philadelphia community to help our students be successful," McFadden said.
Now the public can go to the school district website and find a "wish list" of classic and contemporary books kids at specific schools want donated.
Jones told the kids reading and education helped him come back from being homeless.
"It was a means of getting myself up, getting myself out and getting myself forward," Jones said.
Students say his words hit the mark.
"I think it was a success. Students enjoyed it," said Shekia Gordon.
Officials hope that five years from now, students here are also enjoying classrooms filled with thousands of books.
Donations for "Read for Your Life" are being collected at:
Office of Empowerment School Support (3rd floor, Portal A)
440. North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130