Research published in the journal Science recently shows that fiction readers have more evolved social skills. In short, fiction makes you more polite. We think it goes further than that. We believe that readers are inherently more generous. If they can believe in characters made out of words alone, then they're more likely to have empathy for flesh-and-blood people, particularly those in need.
We started the Concord Free Press to put this idea to the test. And readers keep coming through, book after book. Here's how our unconventional publishing model works. We publish original books and give them away for free, asking that readers donate to a charity they believe in or a person in their community. Then pass the book on. Each book we publish inspires generosity around the world, to causes large and small, to people on the streets from New York to Edinburgh to Tunis.
Our latest book is "The Rockaways," a photo book from Magnum photographer Gilles Peress showing the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Those mesmerizing photos will move readers to take action. We're sure of it. Because readers are generous.
Here are seven bookish charities that readers can support.
1. World Book Night
This massive project spreads the love of reading from reader to reader. Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go into their communities and give a half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light or non-readers. It's all about giving books (we're all for that!) and encouraging reading in people who don't regularly do so. It's also about communities, connections, and sharing stories. Help make it happen.
2. Literacy for Incarcerated Teens
Support the only non-profit organization of its kind working to end illiteracy among New York's incarcerated young people by inspiring them to read. LIT brings books to detained and incarcerated youth, giving them a chance to improve their reading skills--and their lives. Help end illiteracy among this critical group of young people.
3. First Book
First book provides access to new books for children in need. More than 100 million books, in fact, have been donated to more than 50,000 schools and programs. Studies show that interest in reading more than triples among children who received new books from First Book. Help First Book continue to make an impact and inspire a love of reading at an early age.
4. Associates of the Boston Public Library
Local libraries, large and small, rely on auxiliary organizations to supplement funding from municipalities. Keeping the lights on and paying staff is enough of a challenge for many library budgets. Work such as community outreach, educational programming, digitization, conservation, and more is often the domain of groups such as this fine group in Boston--or a similar organization in your city.
5. 826 National
Brainchild of Dave Eggers, the multi-talented James Franco of fiction, 826 National provides tutoring and support to young learners via its growing network of centers. Its mission focuses on inspiring the great leaps in learning that happen with one-on-one attention--and developing the strong writing skills that are fundamental to future success. Donations of time and money are vital to this volunteer-fueled effort.
6. International Book Project
IBP supports a wide range of literacy projects around the world, and has been inspiring literacy and global friendships since 1966. Its Books as Bridges project helps Central Kentucky school kids develop friendships with foreign pen pals and become more excited about writing and learning. Help IBP build bridges and extend classrooms--here and far afield.
7. Concord Free Press
People ask us how we keep the Concord Free Press going--inspiring generosity, book after book. To keep our overhead low, no one involved in the press gets paid. But we do have to pay the printer and buy stamps now and then. For these expenses and more, we rely on the kindness of bookish strangers around the world, who want to support what we're up to. If you're one of them, feel free to donate here.