It started as a simple idea…Kevin and I were older and more established when we got engaged. We didn’t need sheets or pots and pans so we thought “let’s find some teachers and let them register for school supplies”. We thought we’d give away some markers and glue, feel good for a few weeks and move on.
Then my friend Erin asked if she could register for books for her high school Freshman to take home and own. Most had never owned a book of their own or read books where they could see themselves in the characters. She selected racially diverse books with characters and storylines kids could relate to and let each student ask for 3 books from list.
Generous friends, family, and strangers from around the country filled our garage with books…over 400 of them. Enough that each of Erin’s students got to take home 3 books before summer break that they would never have to give back, that they could keep forever, and that would hopefully set them on a path to start reading more.
The day we gave out the books I had to try hard not to cry. The kids, 15 year olds, struggled to understand that they didn’t have to give the books back. They made plans with Erin about how to keep their books safe until they got home so that they weren’t taken by other students. They brainstormed about how they could “trade” books if they finished reading one of them before summer break. It both filled and broke my heart at the same time.
In the days since we have heard feedback from the kids like, “I’ve never read a whole book and I read that one in a day”, “I didn’t use my phone the whole weekend”, and “I already read 4 books”. It struck me how many of these kids had probably never been able to identify with any of the books read in their classrooms. I also thought back to many of the students I taught who hadn’t been able to check books out of the library for years due to fines and lost books. When your family is choosing monthly whether to pay the light bill or the electric bill paying $16.00 for a lost library book isn’t a priority.
I left the high school that day knowing this project couldn’t end with this group of kids or this high school. So here I am asking for your help again. Kevin and I are going to continue collecting as many books as we can in order to keep these book gifts coming. Although I am not sure how many books we will collect or how many students we will help I know that kids are worth us taking the risk.
We will continue collecting and organizing the books in our garage and paying the expense of getting the books wherever they need to be. We’ve created a book list for middle and high school here with the help of Project Lit and my friend Erin. For now we have decided to focus on middle and high school students as there are quite a few book programs currently for elementary students and Kevin and I are just two people. Maybe one day we will be able to expand – a girl can dream.
If you want to order a book off the list it’ll be shipped right to us. If you have copies of these books that you’ve read and loved that you want to donate send me an email at email@example.com and we will help you get it to us. I encourage you to write notes to the kids in the books if you want to, everyone needs a kind word from time to time and maybe your words will help change a life. If you have suggestions of a school that would benefit from books send that to me as well. I don’t know how long it will take for me to get enough to deliver to a school again but I have faith that we will get there.
Maybe we are crazy but I also know the best ideas come from just a touch of crazy. I also know that kids are worth it. I hope you’ll help me spread the word and let’s turn this into Something Bigger.