A 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress test found that 65 percent of fourth graders read at a "below proficient" level. According to the nonprofit Reading Is Fundamental, one of the best ways to develop children's literacy is to encourage kids to read at home. The problem? Two-thirds of children living in poverty in the U.S. have no books at home.
In honor of National Reading Month, we've compiled a list of some charitable organizations that do amazing work to promote children's literacy and bring books to kids all over the world.
While this list certainly does not cover all of the countless nonprofits and individuals working to spread literacy and access to books for children, it is indicative of the inspiring number of organizations doing this important work.
As the nonprofit's explainer video shows, Milk and Bookies is all about getting kids involved in the process of bringing books to children in underserved sectors of their communities. This model not only helps to promote childhood literacy, but it also shows that kids can make a difference and encourages them to keep giving back to their communities. Plus, it's hard not to love the quippy and delicious name.
Little Free Library began as a small idea in a small Wisconsin city. As a tribute to his mother's love of reading, a schoolteacher's grown son built a model of a schoolhouse, filled it with books, and mounted it in front of his house for neighbors to exchange reading materials. Following a motto of "Take a book. Leave a book.," the concept spread across the midwest and beyond. Today, there are over 25,000 registered Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and over 70 countries.
United Through Reading helps the children of active military personnel bond with their deployed parents through reading. Representatives from the nonprofit visit military bases all over the world to film parents reading books to their kids back at home. As the United Through Reading website states, "Our program creates emotional connections between parents and their children, supports literacy, and makes homecomings easier."
Distributing books to libraries, schools, hospitals, prisons, refugee camps and rural communities, Book Aid International works to encourage literacy and access to reading materials in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Since its founding in 1954, the NGO has sent roughly 30 million books to underserved areas.
New York-based nonprofit Pajama Program donates new books and pajamas to kids living in group homes, shelters and temporary housing facilities. In 2014, Pajama Program distributed over 250,000 books and over 250,000 pajama sets to children across the U.S. As founder and executive director Genevieve Piturro wrote in a Huffington Post blog post, "The sustaining power of literacy brings undeniable solace. Beyond the simple comfort reading generates, literacy brings a greater contentment: the knowledge that children can follow their dreams in the waking hours as well as in their sleep."
6. First Book
Since 1992, First Book has provided over 120 million new books to children in low-income areas. In addition to donating new books directly to schools, the nonprofit created First Book Marketplace, a self-sustaining program that makes learning materials available to educators and program leaders at more affordable prices. Additionally, the First Book National Book Bank is the largest clearinghouse for new books donated by publishers in the U.S.
Reach Out and Read is dedicated to making literacy part of children's doctor visits. Partnering with thousands of medical professionals across all 50 states, the nonprofit works to incorporate children's books and advice to parents about the importance of reading out loud into kids' check-ups.
Based in Arizona, Kids Need To Read aims to create "a culture of reading" for children, particularly those in underfunded school districts. The organization's website states, "As budget cutbacks impact school systems, funding for libraries is often one of the first things cut. Many schools have been left unable to buy new books for their students for years, leaving our young heroes in extreme danger of losing their way." Book donations and literacy programs from Kids Need To Read help alleviate some of the harmful effects of these cuts.
Each year, Project Night Night sends over 25,000 "Night Night Packages" to homeless children. These packages contain blankets, stuffed animals, and children's books to help these kids in need "feel secure, cozy, ready to learn,
and significant," the nonprofit's website states.
10. Room to Read
Collaborating with local communities and governments in developing countries, Room to Read focuses on literacy and gender equality in education. The nonprofit works with local villages to build schools and libraries filled with children's books across South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Additionally, Room to Read develops programs to support girls and encourage them to pursue an education.