Sohayle Sizar has a passion for life. Whether it’s discussing a savory meal at Cafe La Ruche, a recent trip to Qatar or the pressing issue of illiteracy, the College sophomore displays an inexhaustible zeal for each new challenge and experience. For the past six years, Sizar has run a book drive called Bring on the Books aimed at reducing childhood illiteracy. With this year’s drive beginning after Georgetown students’ return from spring break, Sizar met up with the guide to talk about both his goals and inspirations for the drive.
How does a program like Bring on the Books fit in at a place like Georgetown?
As college students, we have children’s books at home that we don’t read. Instead of letting them sit at home, let them sit in the hands of a child. Even college students, who aren’t the richest in society, can still make a difference, and I realized books were where they could make this difference.
What inspired you to start Bring on the Books?
At the very beginning of my childhood, I didn’t have many friends. I was raised in a very homogenous community and being different didn’t give me any advantage in making friends. A book was a door to a new world for me — I may not have had a friend at school, but I had a friend in a book. I was going to another world where anything could occur.
Once collected, where will the books go?
They’re going to D.C. Reads, the D.C. family court system and pediatric health clinics in impoverished areas of the District.
Are you working with anyone else on the program?
At Georgetown, I’ve had great support from GUSA, the Corp, Campus Ministry, the Georgetown Law Center and so many others. Nationally, we’re also working with the Reach Out and Read Foundation, the Brookings Institution and the Presidential Correspondence Office.
How is the program connected to the White House and its interfaith challenge?
One of the biggest things is giving back to the community, but another aspect of interfaith is that it’s encompassing all diversities and all people. In many of the communities of D.C., not everyone has English as their first language, so we accept books regardless of language — a human approach to the issue of illiteracy. The fact is we’re all bound together by a single bond on a single, but scattered, path, and at the end of the day, whether it’s English, Arabic, Chinese or Hebrew, we all should have the opportunity to have a book when we’re growing up.
Beyond reducing illiteracy, is there another, bigger goal at play?
The short-term goal, you’re right, is [reducing] illiteracy, but the overall broader aspect is something much more powerful. I believe that there’s greatness in all of us — every person — and I think those who are less fortunate, especially children, do not have the inclination to recognize this. Through the program, I want to reach into their hearts, grab that greatness out and put it within their sights. That’s what drives me. That’s my eventual goal. Books are one avenue [through which] we can manifest this growth, especially in those children who don’t have as much.