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Books for Boos is good for the heart – in more ways than one

When trick-or-treaters arrive in Manisha Patel’s Earle Street neighborhood this Halloween, they will find a treat that opens doors to imagination. In addition to candy, thousands of books will be available to little ghosts and dinosaurs and Jedi masters. 

Patel is a mother of two and a pediatric and adult congenital cardiologist at Prisma Health. She started Books for Boos last year and it was an immediate hit with kids and parents.

“The year before was our first year on Earle Street for Halloween,” she said. 

The neighborhood saw a huge number of kids filling their bags.

“I’m a cardiologist and it hurt my soul to give out that much candy,” Patel said. 

Her then 5-year-old son mentioned giving out books. The idea stuck. 

“In September of last year, I started contacting people I know,” Patel said. 

Donations of books flooded in, but Patel still ran out and ended up giving some children IOUs. 

“It was just an outpouring,” she said. “We collected 1,500 books and we gave them all out by 7:15. The kids were so engaged. It wasn’t taking away from Halloween. It felt like it was adding a little more.”

In addition to being heart-healthy and friendly to children with food allergies, Patel sees getting books in the hands of children as a way to nurture a love of literacy in her community.

For 2019, Patel decided to dream big, seeking to double the number of books available. Friends and community organizations, including Greenville First Steps and Greenville Literacy Association, have pitched in to help. Patel is still taking donations and hopes to give out 3,000 books on Oct. 31. In 2020, she wants to see others set up their own Halloween book giveaways.  

“Part of it is social media and the power of how much good it can do,” she said. “I had people start mailing them to me from across the country because they love the concept and want to replicate it. Even if just one house in each neighborhood did it, we could really make a dent in literacy.”

To donate new or gently used children’s books, drop them off at Cyclebar or The Community Tap or contact Patel through her Instagram account at @heartdocinlovewithlife.