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.
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)
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.
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!”