(Important Note – For this story to have a happy ending, your volunteer help is needed before October 4th. Click here to help.)
“We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.”
— B.F. Skinner
A carpenter without a hammer probably cannot build much of a house.
A surgeon without a scalpel will save few lives.
It’s no different for a child, deprived of books. Literacy may be taken for granted in middle class and wealthy homes but in a poor home it’s a luxury. It may be assumed that schools will teach children how to read, but it is still up to the parents to instill a love of learning. In poor homes, books are a luxury. That’s the start of our story.
Where the books end, The Children’s Book begins.
Founded in 2008, the goal of the bank is to put used books in the hands of disadvantaged children in the Portland Metro Area. It’s origins lie in a Teach for America teacher, Danielle, who found that her high school math students in North Carolina could not read the story problems in their high school text books. Having to “throw the book away”, she had to devise a new hands-on curriculum because many of her students were functionally illiterate. It gave her a glimpse into the effects of book-less homes, although she did not realize it immediately.
Years later, after her own children had finished with several hundred books, she gathered them up and made a large donation to a local youth program. Word got around about her donation and she received call after call asking how her “organization” could help get books to many other children’s programs.
Unfortunately, there was no organization. Fortunately, it was about to be born across the country in Portland, Oregon.
When Danielle moved to Portland, she brought that knowledge of the need for books and turned it into a non-profit organization – The Children’s Book Bank, which which now distributes 100,000 gently-used children’s books per year to students in Head Starts, preK programs, and children’s hospitals. Children are given 10-15 books to own and take home to start building their own libraries. If possible, books in the parents’ native languages are sent home as well in order to encourage reading aloud, even if the parents have emigrated and are not comfortable in English. The Children’s Book Bank tries to make sure even poor children have a chance to develop that love of reading.
Maybe the story should end here and everyone would read happily ever after. But in a good story, there’s always a twist and this story is no different.
An Indiana native ex-pat with contacts to the online book sellers industry in the midwest discovered that a large number of children’s books were going to be discarded. The group he was associated with, Bazillion Books For Kids, contacted the city of Portland mayor’s office which in turn contacted the Children’s Book Bank and Hands On Portland. An agreement was made where the books could be shipped to Portland, stored at Memorial Coliseum for three weeks in late September, from which the book bank, using volunteer help, could then clean, pack, and distribute the books. At the end of three weeks, any remaining books will have to be discarded.
The number of books is … 100,000.
The clever reader will have already noticed that this is the number of books that the Children’s Book Bank processes in one year. Three weeks is an enormous challenge. A huge challenge. An
impossible challenge for a small organization. It’s a blitz (a book blitz) and it can succeed.
Like all good stories, this Children’s Book Story will have an ending on October 4th. Unlike all stories, however, this story’s ending has not yet been written. Will the book bank get every book cleaned, sorted, boxed and distributed? Will every one of those books reach a child?
Well, that’s up to you.
How You Can Help
There are 100,000 books sitting in Veteran’s Memorial Colosseum. They need to be cleaned, repaired and sorted by October 4th, the last day the city has given the book bank to get the books packaged and shipped. That means any remaining books will be recycled as the bank is too small to hold them all.
Here’s how you can help.
Since there is not much time, please tell your friends today. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Make sure people know about it, then tell them again in a day or two. Email your friends in Portland. Talk about it at the water cooler.
Signup for a three hour volunteer session with HandsOn to clean books. Look for the Children’s Book Blitz. Find a slot and sign up. I can guarantee that you’ll have fun finding books that you remember, as well as ensuring books will get to children who will use them.
As an aside, during my volunteer session yesterday, I asked these Lincoln High School students at our table what brought them to Memorial Coliseum on a Sunday morning to clean books. I expected them to say that they were doing it through school. Instead, one of the young men told me that his father had mentioned it to him so he just asked the guys if they wanted to volunteer. Four of the them did. Very cool!
Supplies to clean books are in … short supply (pun intended). Here is a partial list of what’s needed.
- Goo Gone
- Contact paper
- Printer labels
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Clear Tape
Find out more
Contact the Children’s Book Bank directly with questions. Their warehouse is closed during the blitz, but you can reach them by email at “info at childrensbookbank.org”. Of course, you can always contact me for more information (contact info upper left). I’ll help you get in touch with the right people.
You do not need a lot of time to help make sure this story has a happy ending.
Give an hour. Give a book.
Yesterday’s gift of time … Volunteered at the Children’s Book Blitz to help put children’s books in the hands of young children from book-deprived homes. Please help if you can sometime between now and October 4th.