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, Tennessee, and most recently, rural Kentucky. As of June 2018 over 250,000 books have been provided to children through schools, families, community centers and libraries.

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 wanted to help.

Jim with kids in the Lower Ninth
Books To Kids Program Director, Jim Selin, with kids in in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in May, 2013.


Books To Kids is a way to help children move beyond trauma, cope with the difficulties of economically challenged neighborhoods, and ultimately, to increase their academic success.

Books To Kids promotes 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. These are the years when a child’s academic foundation can have its most powerful effect on both the child and their family.

Thirty four percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty; the national average is 20%. (Source: Annie Casey Foundation Kids Count 2011). Poverty and early stress impact not only a child’s day-to-day life, but also the choices and opportunities she or he has to create future happiness and success.

Most of the children served by Books To Kids live below the poverty level, with the vast majority on the free or reduced lunch program at school.  In short we strive to reach those in greatest need. Over 7000 kids are served annually by Books To Kids.

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


Book acquisition operates year round. Books provided 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.

About four distribution runs to the Gulf coast area, Middle Tennessee and Appalachia take place annually. Current Gulf Coast distribution sites include

  • Arise Academy Charter School, New Orleans
  • Mildred Osborne Elementary School, New Orleans
  • Boothville-Venice Elementary School, LA
  • Arabi Community Center, LA
  • Point Aux Chenes community, LA
  • The Lower Ninth Ward Literacy project, New Orleans
  • Isle de Jean Charles families, LA
  • Abney Elementary School, Slidell LA
Isle de Jean Charles books
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 from Books To Kids.


Current Middle Tennessee sites include Highland Park Elementary School in Columbia, The Farm School and Kids To The Country program in Summertown.

Sites in rural east Tennessee and Kentucky include Mountain Communities Parent Resource Center/Wynn Habersham Elementary School in Campbell County, Tennessee, and the Books To Kids Reading and Tutoring Center in Williamsburg, Kentucky. The Center also distributes books to elementary schools in Whitley County, Kentucky.

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.

NOLA book parade
Books were given away during the Literacy Parade in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in May, 2013.


Some books are donated to school libraries and some are used in accelerated reading programs.

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.

Maria Prout, Principal of Boothville-Venice Elementary School says:

”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!”

Taking into account all expenses of acquisition, transportation and distribution, each book is provided to a child at a cost of approximately 55 cents.

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, visit http://www.facebook.com/bookstokids or contact info@plenty.org 

Kids To The Country

Plenty’s Kids To The Country (KTC) program offers at-risk urban kids the opportunity to take a break from troubled situations and develop a connection to nature through hands-on experience.  KTC takes place on 1750 acres of woods, fields and streams south of Nashville on Tennessee’s Highland Rim. The land belongs to a 45 year-old intentional community called the Farm, which has hosted KTC since 1986 and has about 200 permanent residents today.

KTC kids come from homeless shelters, refugee centers, and low-income neighborhoods. More than 5000 children have participated since the program began.

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 also provides the opportunity for kids to:

  • experience a multicultural environment
  • build a positive sense of community
  • 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 a connection to the rhythms of nature.

Swimming lessons in the “swimming hole.”

Many former KTC kids return to become counselors in training.

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 help or participate in the Kids To The Country program, please email us, or write to: KTC, 425 Farm Road, Suite 3, Summertown, TN 38483. Donations to KTC are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated!

For more information about Kids To The Country please visit us and like us on Facebook here.

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.