Thursday, August 30, 2007

What's More Fun than a Free Book?

Few things are more fun for me than giving away books. So I recognized a kindred spirit in this morning’s KidsPost, the children’s section of The Washington Post. A seventeen-year-old Virginia high school student, touched by the 2004 tsunami, collected 2,000 gently used children’s books for schools in Sri Lanka. When the student, Sarasi Jayarantne, arrived in one small town to deliver her first donation, the community welcomed her with a marching band. After such success, it’s no wonder that she’s continuing her efforts through a new group, the Keep Reading Foundation, that will welcome your contributions (though she can’t promise a marching band for everyone). Great work, Sarasi!

A non-profit called Bring Me a Book has a somewhat different approach to improving children’s literacy. Rather than donating books en masse, their programs establish lending libraries in preschools, homeless shelters, medical centers, and other places where kids and families congregate. Two unique programs that especially intrigue me are their book bag lending libraries, which enable employers to set up shelves of lendable books for employees to share at home, and workshops that teach techniques for reading aloud to parents and daycare providers. Bring Me a Book programs are enhancing literacy in 9 states and 7 countries so far.

The biggest book fairy organization I know is First Book. That thriving group has already donated 50 million books to children in need around the country, largely through a National Book Bank of new titles donated by publishers. First Book has its own blog, where you can catch announcements such as a pledge this week by Random House to donate a whopping $1 million to the cause. If you know of an organization or Title 1 school that needs free books (of course you do!), visit the website to learn how they can register as a recipient of a First Book distribution.

Part of me dreams of being CEO of a group like First Book, joyfully doling out stack after stack of colorful titles to crowds of smiling children. But the rest of me knows that I’d constantly be clashing with my board of directors, who wouldn’t understand why we’d give away dozens of kids' field guides, nature story books, and Aldo Leopold biographies for every Harry Potter or Captain Underpants. It’s not that I don’t think such popular books have their places; it’s just that my passion is elsewhere. So I know that my true dream is to start a group with enhancing nature literacy as the focus, and book donations as a means to that laudable—and essential—end. Until I figure out how to do that, though, I’ll be giving books like Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon and Amy Ehrlich's Carson biography, Rachel, to people like Sarasi, who have already found a way to spread their love of all kinds of books around the world.


Anonymous said...

Discover fun places for kids to visit in Toronto. Find hundreds of places where you and your kids can have fun, including museums, bowling alleys, music concerts, and many more!

Mike Marti said...

Anything free is always fun to me!

@Alexa I did not know Toronto had so many Fun Places for Kids and adults! I'm actually going to visit family there soon.