Biking for Books: Meet Our Team!

On Sunday, May 6, nine dedicated individuals will bike for books in support of Literacy Partners and our programming. Together, Team Literacy Partners will bike 40 miles across all five boroughs, taking in the sights of New York City traffic-free. Collectively, our riders have raised over $5,000 to provide free literacy and language classes to immigrant parents, as well as provide home libraries of children’s books for each of our students’ children.

This year, we have several new members of Team Literacy Partners, as well as several individuals who have returned to bike and rally for our cause. Why did these individuals choose to support literacy and bike for books?

Paul Cottell

“I feel that literacy is the most important foundational skill that children, families and adults must possess to navigate our ever-complex world successfully. In both my volunteer work as a literacy tutor and my work as a public school nurse, I see the vital role that literacy plays in healthy children and families and how a lack of literacy in families and children contributes to adverse health outcomes,” Paul says. Paul is a public school nurse in Maspeth, Queens and lives in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Some of Paul’s favorite books growing up include “Make Way for Ducklings,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” Miss Nelson is Missing,” “Sarah Plain and Tall,” “Bridge to Terabithia,” and “Anne of Green Gables.”

This is Paul’s first time participating in a charity ride, and he is excited to ride over the Verrazano Bridge, while promoting literacy and enjoying the camaraderie of his fellow bikers. In his spare time, Paul can be found lounging at the beach with a good book in the summer and in front of a fireplace in winter. He also loves to travel, and is fluent in Dutch as a dual citizen of the Netherlands and the US. Fun fact: Paul has lived in five countries!

Bob D’Agostino

As a teacher of fifth grade reading in Canarsie, Brooklyn, Bob is excited to join Team Literacy Partners; his work as a reading teacher in a low-income community aligns closely with our mission and vision. “I have seen firsthand the importance of providing children with a supportive literacy environment,” Bob says.

Bob was always passionate about reading – an avid reader as a child, Bob would enter the classroom before school to read the sports section of the newspaper. Joining his first charity ride, Bob is excited to experience New York City in a unique way, and bike through Manhattan without car traffic. In addition to his love for biking and reading, Bob loves to play tennis at Fort Greene Park, hike, and work out. He loves to travel out of the city and experience nature. When at his home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, he is a big New York sports fan of the Mets, Jets and Islanders.

Andrew Gellatly

“I share the same passion for higher learning and curiosity as exemplified by the mission of Literacy Partners,” Andrew says, excited to participate in his first charity ride. Andrew’s favorite book growing up was The Jungle Book. A Brooklyn resident, Andrew is an advisor for private contemporary art collections and started his own business to design custom-made art covers to protect art from light and weather damage. Andrew is excited for May 6 to “see the city at a slower speed, on a bicycle!” When he isn’t reading, Andrew likes to visit museums and galleries, discover interesting food, and go on cross-country road trips and international trips.

Barbara Kancelbaum 

This is Barbara’s second year biking for books – “I #bikeforbooks because Literacy Partners not only shares the love of reading with low-income immigrant parents and their kids–a great purpose in itself–but also gives adults the skills they need to tangibly improve their circumstances, in work, health, and housing, and to succeed as parents.”

A huge reader as a child, Barbara loved Yertle the Turtle and The Snowy Day, making her way through the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, along with Judy Blume. Barbara lives in Brooklyn and works in communications for several universities and non-profits – including Literacy Partners in the past! Barbara is excited to ride through the closed streets of NYC and take in unusual views. In her free time, Barbara runs, does yoga, views art, and spends time with her family.

Munira Karimjee

Munira is participating in her third charity ride – her first with Literacy Partners. As a recent New Yorker, she is excited to see all of the boroughs. When she was younger, she loved R.L. Stine and sci-fi novels by Monica Hughes. “Reading is important!” Munira says. “I loved reading growing up and I still do–I hope to pass on the same joy and comfort that I find from it.” Munira is an architectural designer, and in her spare time, she likes to sew, ski, and read.



Carmel Paleski

The Literacy Partners #BikeforBooks event combines two of my passions – reading and riding my bike. I’m excited to help raise funds and support Literacy Partners,” Carmel says, as she returns to Team Literacy Partners for the second year. Carmel works in higher education administration and lives in the Bronx.

For Carmel, the joy for reading emerged at an early age – “One of my favorite things to do as a child was to walk to the library and check out new books. The public library was an oasis full of many stories waiting to be read.”  Carmel recognizes the importance of reading after nearly two decades of experience in education as a classroom teacher and administrator. She says, “Being able to read to your children, help them with their school work, and have access to knowledge is fundamental to being human.” She is excited to bike for a cause that aligns with her work and core values. Carmel frequently bikes around the greenways and parks of NYC, and loves to knit and travel.

David Rothenberg

As the Assistant Director of Programs at Literacy Partners, David has seen firsthand the importance of education and access to books. “I can’t remember a time before books,” David says. “Growing up, I couldn’t put John Grisham’s novels down. Through university, just about everything I read involved human rights, law, and philosophy. Now, I can’t get enough of historical fiction.”

David chose to bike for books because, “although we live in a world where knowledge and information are becoming more and more ubiquitous, no other form of media brings together content, analysis, and imagery quite like a good book.” A resident of Astoria, Queens, David is looking forward to cruising through all five boroughs on closed streets, and for the mental and physical challenge of the bike tour. As someone who is dedicated to fitness, weightlifting, and calisthenic exercises, he’s looking forward to his first ride with Team Literacy Partners.

Vishal Shah

I participated with Team Literacy Partners last year, and had a great experience. I think the work the organization does is great, and I wanted to support them again this year.” Vishal returns to Team Literacy Partners this year, excited to bike for books in NYC. Vishal is a software engineer who lives in Manhattan. He enjoys reading for leisure, preferring non-fiction and biographies – “anything where I can learn something new.” He also loves to be active, and enjoys playing basketball, tennis, snowboarding, and swimming. Biking for books is one way for Vishal to enjoy all that New York City has to offer.

Angelo Spampinato
A Brooklyn resident, Angelo is excited to see new parts of New York City in his first charity ride and to bike for a cause. “I chose Literacy Partners because I believe that a better future for the world will first and foremost come from better education. It is unfortunate that money too often dictates the quality of teaching that a person will receive. I believe that everyone, regardless of background, has the right to a good education,” Angelo says. Angelo was a passionate reader as a child, and loved the Redwall series by Brian Jacques and the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. When he isn’t reading, Angelo plays shows throughout New York City as a professional musician. He is also a web developer.

To support biking for books, donate to any of our riders’ individual fundraising pages.

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