A couple of months ago I stumbled upon this great non-profit organization run by two moms in North Carolina called Books Are Magic. After reading about them and what they believe I decided that I wanted to help. Hapenny Magick was recently picked up by Spencer Hill Press for re-release and I had a couple of boxes left of the hardcover version I had printed through Pugalicious, so I decided the best way I could help was 1)Donating a box of signed books and 2)Getting the word out!
What made you decide to start Books Are Magic?
Both of us are book lovers. Books have been an important part of our lives, and we see the impact they have in our kids’ lives. In the summer of 2010, Jane read an article about a study at the University of Tennessee that gave 12 books to at-risk kids before summer break. The study found that having those 12 books counteracted the summer decline in literacy. At the time, we both had kids attending a high-needs elementary school in Raleigh, NC, and we decided to replicate the project for kids at the school who didn’t have books at home. We started running book drives to collect new and used books and then gave out books before the summer break. It was such an amazing experience we decided to form a non-profit organization and expand our efforts to reach more children.
Where do your donations come from?
We run book drives in the community and receive donations of new and used books through those efforts. We also have been fortunate to receive a number of donations from publishers, other literacy non-profit organizations, and directly from authors themselves. Collecting gently used books allows us to give so many books to each child and allows us to keep costs low, but it is also wonderful to be able to give some new books as well. This year we also received a number of books signed by authors, and the kids who received those books were almost giddy.
How many books have you given away so far?
Since 2011, we’ve given close to 900 twelve-book libraries to kids. This year we worked with three elementary schools and gave books to 375 children. The schools identify students who need books, and we set up a giving bookstore inside the school. Teachers select 6 books for each student, and then the kids get to come and shop for the other 6 books. For many, it’s the first time they’ve been able to shop for a book they get to keep forever. They are so excited, and it is wonderful to see such enthusiasm about books.
We are growing and hope to add 2 more schools next year, which should add another 200 or more children. It is an amazing feeling to walk out of a school at the end of a distribution and know that every single child at that school as at least 12 books of their very own.
Why do you think that getting books into the hands of needy kids is so important?
Books are powerful. They can open worlds of opportunity, information, and experience to children. There is a lot of research showing a correlation between having books at home and academic success. And research shows that owning books also changes the way children feel about themselves—they see themselves as Readers. The University of Tennessee study found that having 12 books at home over the summer had the same impact as summer school. The stark statistics are that as more than two-thirds of low-income families don’t have age appropriate books at home, so there is a very real need to make sure children have books of their own.
Beyond that, the children we meet are so excited when they hear that they are going to get to pick out books of their own. Some of the kids cannot believe they never have to give these books back. There is lots of jumping up and down, lots of grins, and always a few tears of joy. You never know which book might spark an interest in a child, provide a needed escape, or just provide an adventure. We hope that in addition to helping improve literacy we can foster a life-long love of reading.
How can people or organizations help you donate more books?
We are a relatively young organization and are growing because there is such a need for books in our community. We always need new and used books for elementary-aged children. And as an all-volunteer non-profit, we need volunteer support to help us reach more kids. Our website, www.booksaremagic.org has a link to contact us and ways to help. We also have a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BooksAreMagic) and we are on Twitter at @Books_Are_Magic.