Sorting through novel memories, Tesoro High students host a book drive for kids at hospitals

Sara Kurd-Misto, left, co-founded FirstBook Tesoro, a book club which helps raise money and gather books for those in need. She gets support from Sydney Kim, Breeana Warren, Oksana Aldendeshe and Taylor Kim, from left, during the recent drive.
(Don Leach | TimesOC)

Harry Potter, Junie B. Jones, the three little pigs and other literary characters from more than 400 books were in search of new homes this month as the FirstBook Tesoro club led its first book drive at Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Southern California.

Tesoro student Sara Kurd-Misto co-founded the club with her school friends after seeing television advertisements for First Book, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that provides books and educational materials to children in need.

Through the Ronald McDonald House, hundreds of picture books, novels and works of nonfiction the club collected this month will be relayed to children at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo and to Syrian burn victims set to arrive at Shriners Hospital in Pasadena, Sara and her mother, Susan Baaj, said.

“It’s a cycle — you help someone and then they help others,” said Baaj, chairwoman for the Foothill Ranch-based Syrian Institute for Progress, which arranges treatments for Syrian children who have fallen victim to chemical bombs and barrels.

The one-day book drive held this month gathered materials from neighbors, friends, classmates and club members who parted with pieces of their literary collections.

“I donated my One Direction books,” Sara told her mother as she unloaded some boxes at the drive.

“Wow, that is big,” Baaj said.

“I knew you’d be proud,” Sara said.

Among the heaps of books were titles like John Green’s “Paper Towns,” C.S. Lewis’ “The Magician’s Nephew,” and works by Dr. Seuss.

Tesoro student Oksana Aldendeshe dropped off a copy of Jostein Gaarder’s “Sophie’s World,” a philosophy book that reminded the club of when they read it for the Advanced Placement European History class.

The girls giggled and reminisced over a young Justin Bieber after Tesoro student Breeana Warren plucked a paperback copy of Ronny Bloom’s 2010 book “Justin Bieber (Get the Scoop)” out of the pile.

Tesoro student Sydney Kim sifted through titles like “Junie B. Jones” and turned to her twin sister, Taylor Kim, asking, “Remember when we were obsessed [by] these?”

“We were really interested in starting this club because we all have a love for reading and we want to spread our love for that,” Sydney said.

Student members in FirstBook Tesoro, which formed this past school year, planned the book drive at the start of summer by deciding who would receive the books and by distributing fliers for the drive on mailboxes and in parks.

During the school year, the club also raised funds for First Book.

“What stuck out to me is that some kids don’t have books and don’t read,” Sara said. “After doing some research, I found that California has some of the most illiterate cities in the whole United States.”

Within the next year, the club plans to host additional book drives and find ways to personally deliver books to children in local areas, including Title I schools.

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10