Thirteen-year-old Helene Kahn doesn't have one favorite book.
An eighth-grader at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, she mostly reads history and biography for class, tucked away in a quiet corner of her Pikesville home while listening to a Dave Matthews Band CD.
But Helene finds that reading is more fun when she couples books with a little benevolence.
As part of the service activities for her bat mitzvah, Helene collected about 500 books to donate to the Reach Out and Read program in Baltimore.
The nonprofit program aims to give children a head start on reading before kindergarten. Providing books at pediatricians' offices, the program has 23 sites in the city for children in need.
"I really liked working with the younger kids," Helene said.
She became involved with the program's site at Johns Hopkins Hospital a few years ago when her younger brother Eli underwent chemotherapy at Hopkins as part of cancer treatment. (He is now in remission.) Helene often worked as a volunteer for the program, reading to its young patients.
Helene is "a great teacher," said her mother, Marlene Trestman.
When Helene was planning her bat mitzvah, she had an idea for a service project. "I knew I definitely wanted to do something for Hopkins," she said. "And I wanted to do more than just give money."
Helene said the donation was important to her because reading is an essential part of life: "You can't really live without learning how to read because there's so much of it you have to do, every second of everyday, to get things done."