Disadvantaged Kids

Providing natural world experiences, conflict resolution training, books and educational initiatives for kids facing hardships of any kind.

Books to Kids in Toledo

In 2016 Books to Kids began the first distribution of slim readers to children in the Toledo District. This partnership between Plenty Belize and Plenty International builds upon the Books to Kids project run by Plenty International in Tennessee and Louisiana, USA. We provide books to children to own and have in their homes, approximately monthly, with the goal of the children building a small library of 10 or more books to read, trade, and enjoy.

Plenty Belize uses the help of board members, staff, and local volunteers to distribute the books, making this project efficient on a low budget. We have been distributing at:

  • Jacintoville
  • Santa Anna
  • Crique Sarco
  • Barranco
  • Punta Gorda Library After School Program
  • University of Belize Reading Club
  • Eldridge
  • Jalacte
  • Graham Creek

The children at each site choose their own book from those provided (there are always extra to choose from), and the site coordinator ensures that a record is kept of the children and their book choices. We also keep track of the reading level (below, average, above) as reported by the teachers. The coordinators often enter into discussions with the students about the books they have read, encouraging reading and literacy.

Plenty Belize looks forward to continuing this project for the next several years!


Books To Kids



Since 2006 Books To Kids volunteers have distributed free, quality books to disadvantaged children in Louisiana and Tennessee.

As of January 2021 well over 300,000 books have been provided to children through schools, families, community centers and libraries!

Books To Kids seeks to help children cope with stressful life circumstances and ultimately, to increase their academic success by promoting literacy and a love of reading.  With these skills, children are better equipped to make informed life choices. The program focuses on children up to age 11, when a child’s academic foundation can have its most powerful effect on both the child and their family.

Books To Kids was started by Nashville, Tennessee resident Jim Selin, who had assisted Plenty in relief efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Jim saw first hand the devastation experienced by families in New Orleans and began to give out books to help children move beyond the trauma they experienced.

Over 7000 kids are served annually by Books To Kids, most of whom live below the federal poverty level. Poverty and early stress not only impacts a child’s day-to-day life, but also the choices and opportunities she or he has to create future happiness and success. In short we strive to reach those in greatest need, and focus onschools where all the children qualify for thefree lunch program.

In recent years BTK has expanded, providing books to other Plenty partners to distribute including Plenty Belize in Central America and at Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Territory in So. Dakota.

Research has demonstrated the correlation between the number of books in a child’s home and their academic success. That is why the majority of Books To Kids books, while distributed in schools, are destined for students’ homes, to be shared with family and friends.

After Hurricane Sandy blasted coastal New York and New Jersey, Books To Kids distributed books in neighborhoods that had been hit.














How it works:

Book acquisition operates year round. Books are chosen utilizing guidelines regarding illustrations, language, and content.  Volunteers help with acquisition, distribution and related tasks. Volunteers:

  • Acquire quality books from libraries, families, thrift and used book stores, yard sales, and other sources.
  • Process, box and label books for distribution.
  • Transport the books to schools and community centers, which distribute the free reading materials directly to children.

For most of BTK’s history, three to four book distribution trips took place annually to the Gulf coast area and in Middle Tennessee. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions in 2020-21, books are currently being shipped by mail.

Current Gulf Coast distribution sites include:
  • Boothville-Venice Elementary School, LA (our oldest site)
  • Mildred Osborne Elementary School, New Orleans (part of the Arise Academy system)
  • Point Aux Chenes Community Center, LA
  • The Lower Ninth Ward Literacy project, New Orleans
  • Families of Isle de Jean Charles, LA (14 years)
  • Abney Elementary School, Slidell LA (one of our success stories! Now “graduated” from BTK and connected with “Books a Million”)
  • Brock Elementary School, Slidell LA
  • Orleans Parish Juvenile Justice Center, LA
  • So. Plaquemine Elementary School, LA
  • Mardi Gras Chewbaccus parade (New Orleans) and Mona Lisa Moon Pie parade in October (Slidell)
  • Special events with the Lower Ninth Ward Literacy Project
  • Dat School (near Upper 9thWard) gets books into the neighborhood
  • Community Works afterschool program (provides enrichment activities at several schools in Orleans Parish)
Kids living on Isle de Jean Charles, an island off the coast of Louisiana that is gradually eroding into the Gulf of Mexico, examine their new books.

Current Middle Tennessee sites include Highland Park Elementary School in Columbia and the Kids To The Country program in Summertown. BTK also provides books to “Book ‘Em” another nonprofit partner in Nashville TN.

Volunteers in Tennessee and New Orleans keep building new relationships with school principals, community center directors, and other children’s programs that suggest additional sites where books are needed and will be distributed.

BTK also helps facilitate the placement of Little Free Libraries on the Gulf coast and north Nashville and supplies books for them.

Taking into account all expenses of acquisition, transportation and distribution, each book is provided to a child at a cost of approximately 50 cents.

Books were given away during the Literacy Parade in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in May, 2013.
Maria Prout, Principal of Boothville-Venice Elementary School:

”When Jim brings books we organize them and set them out on a table in the library with a sign that says “Free Books from Mr. Jim”. We encourage the teachers to take their classes to see the books.

The children are then able to take home books they select. Since we’ve been able to build up our school library, we wanted to give the kids the opportunity to actually take books home.

The teachers work with the kids on how to organize their home libraries according to genre, author. Sometimes a student will bring back one of the books that they particularly liked to offer them to other kids or ask their teacher to read it to the class.

I would like to see more books from Plenty because our big push right now is literacy. The more we can get books into the hands of the parents that they can read to their kids and the more we can get books into the hands of the kids, the better our community is going to be.”

Dawn LaFonte, Principal:

”Thank you so much for the visit and the books you graciously brought to Pointe aux Chene and Oaklawn Jr. High. The students were delighted to have them. We frequently have visits at Oaklawn Jr. High by students who are mentally and physically impaired.

The law states that they must be included on a regular school campus, which delights me. However, we frequently don’t have materials on their level.

Your last drop of books to me had several wonderful Indian stories on their level. We shared them in the library and they were so excited!

The regular students in the library were excited to read to the challenged students as well. That was a blessing I did not think I would see!

Thank you for making such an important difference in the lives of our students. It means so much!”

Our greatest need is to add more volunteers and funding to continue and grow Books To Kids. Your donations and support are greatly appreciated!

For more information: http://www.facebook.com/bookstokids or email info@plenty.org 

Kids To The Country

Plenty’s Kids To The Country (KTC) program offers at-risk urban kids the opportunity to get out of the city and their troubled situations to develop a connection to nature through hands-on experience.  KTC takes place on 1750 acres of woods, fields and streams 80 miles south of Nashville on Tennessee’s Highland Rim. The land belongs to a 50 year-old intentional community called The Farm, where KTC has operated since 1986.

KTC kids come from homeless shelters, refugee centers, and low-income neighborhoods. More than 8500 children have participated since the program began in Tennessee.

A KTC craft-making session next to the “swimming hole,” a pond with a sandy beach, which is a favorite spot for the kids.










Kids To The Country provides the opportunity for kids to:

  • experience a multicultural environment
  • build a sense of community and positive self-esteem
  • learn nonviolent conflict resolution skills
  • develop healthful relationships
  • expand their world view
bike riders
The Farm has lots of safe places to ride bikes.

KTC structures activities to form lasting feelings of accomplishment and self-worth in each child. The nature school curriculum helps every youngster develop an experiential connection to the rhythms of nature, the animals, and the woods!

Swimming lessons in the “swimming hole.”

Many former KTC kids return to become counselors in training. The first week of KTC is always set aside for our counselor training, and includes a day for the younger kids to come and interact with the counselor trainees.

Many of the youngsters we get to know live with the daily threat of random violence. One expressed  “I bet there’s no shoot-outs here like there are in my neighborhood.” In recent times we’ve seen the unthinkable happen in our schools and in our cities. We know that ignoring the needs of children in our communities ultimately affects us all.

To find out how you can sponsor a child or participate in the Kids To The Country program, please email us, Mary Ellen Bowen, MSc, Director, kidstothecountry@gmail.com, or write to: KTC, 425 Farm Road, Suite 3, Summertown, TN 38483. Donations to KTC are tax-deductible and always greatly appreciated!

Kids To The Country is an outdoor, experiential, education program (not camp). For more information about Kids To The Country please visit us and like us on Facebook here.

Kids To The Country

This past year ninety-three kids took a break from urban strife and experienced nature close up during KTC’s
summer program. Peacemaker classes and role-plays dealing with real life situations helped the children practice problem-solving skills.

“Mothers and Others Day” brought kids and their mothers or caregivers together to experience KTC for a day in July.

Over 60 children made gifts for their loved ones and celebrated the principles of Kwanzaa, which include taking personal and community responsibility, at KTC’s Winter program.

Kids To The Country and Books to Kids provided books to each child at every KTC summer session and Kwanzaa
celebration. Many of these children do not have books at home and they are a special and valued gift.

Kids to the Country: Kwanzaa 2011

Each year in rural Tennessee, over 200 at-risk urban youth experience the fun and wonder of the natural world while learning communication, cooperation and anger management skills at the KTC Nature School.

At the Kwanzaa and Gift-making Program, the kids spend time making hand-made gifts for their loved-ones. When they leave, their bags are full of gifts and donated fruit that is part of the Ceremony.

The second part of the program is a Kwanzaa Celebration that awakens the children to their personal talents and good principles to live by all year around.

The Ceremony, led by longtime KTC staff member, Sizwe Herring (below), is based on the book, Practicing Kwanzaa Year Around by the late, beloved KTC Advisor, author and teacher, Gwynelle Dismukes.

KTC is grateful to the Sheila Fortune, PeyBack and Bay and Paul Foundations.