Every once in a while I am reminded that not everyone has books at home. Yesterday was that day. Our store is in Shelburne, Vermont, a somewhat affluent town in Chittenden County. I naively assume that everyone who wants them, has them. I know this sounds ridiculous, but sometimes I forget that books are not in every home.
One of my favorite teachers came in yesterday. Jen gets to know all of her students, whether they’re in her regular class during the year, or in her enrichment class during the summer. She handpicks books after getting to know the students. We were talking a mile a minute, pulling books as she spoke, until she came to Lewis. She paused after saying his name and touched her hand to her heart and said, “I asked him what were his favorite books from home. And he said ‘Don’t got no books at home.’ ”
We both just stood there. No books at home.
I couldn’t imagine what that would be like. I told Jen when she came back later in the week, I’d have some galleys for her to share with him. This situation, sadly, is repeated in homes all over the country. While I can’t do something for every child who needs it, I can do what I can do in my part of the world. Galleys are great, but they are not the solution for all the kids who need books.
I remembered about First Book, the organization whose sole mission is to get books into the hands of children who don’t have books at home. First Book provides young children with books, as does Reach Out and Read, which works with pediatricians all over the country. The need for books for kids under age six is great and these two organizations do a great job at getting books to these kids. But older kids still need books.
Reading Is Fundamental fills the void nicely. They work to get books to any child who needs them. Our store works with RIF annually by having an in-store book donation drive. Customers got a discount for any book they donated to RIF. This is a win-win for everyone.
So, as I pack up a box of galleys for Jen to share with Lewis and others in her class who need them, I am heartened that there are organizations available to kids who need and want books. If there are other organizations that distribute books and I’ve omitted them, please let me know and I can add them.