Fair warning: there may be an excessive use of exclamation points within this article because we simply cannot contain our excitement!
Our driving purpose is to spread a love of reading farther and wider. We do this partly through the first-ever kids book subscription service. But we also have a large—and growing!—donation program to help ensure books are reaching children and communities that may otherwise lack access to literature. Our members are key to this donation program. Pre-loved books sent back with Literati return boxes grow our collection and enable us to donate. A huge thank you to all of you who’ve donated!
Vanessa Castañeda, our partnerships manager, has been hard at work over the last year since she volunteered to run the donations program. “From day one, our mission has been to give every kid the chance to fall in love with reading. Why? It can fundamentally alter their life.”
On behalf of Vanessa and the rest of the Literati team, we’re proud to announce our latest, proudly-accomplished milestone:
We have donated 100,000 books!
That is 100,000 imaginations ignited. Lessons learned. Minds opened, and big smiles on small, cute faces before bedtime. And here at Literati Kids, that is what it’s all about. One donation at a time, we’re expanding access to the joy and the benefits of reading. And we couldn’t have done it without you (our members!), and other altruistic partners across the state of Texas and beyond!
Literati has been fortunate to work with so many people and institutions who are equally as passionate about reading as we are. And many have stepped up particularly strongly in recent months, as the pandemic created more barriers for underprivileged communities: Austin Independent School District, Little Free Library, Bookspring, REDArena, and Austin Public Library—to name just a few.
A special thank you to our most recent partners, who helped us reach 100k!
2,000 books were donated on behalf of Literati Kids book club members Julia F. and Anne R.
Literati Kids’ Epic Summer Referral Contest offered prizes to members who referred the most friends to Literati Kids. Our 2nd- and 3rd-place winners each got to choose where they would like us to donate 1,000 books each on their behalf!
Julia F. from Tucson, AZ made her donation to Literacy Connects.
Literacy Connects is a nonprofit that combats issues like poverty and low education rates in Southern Arizona with innovative programs that promote literacy and motivate lifelong learners. They have helped communities grow a culture of literacy and a shared understanding of literacy’s importance to the life, health, and future of everyone.
Anne R. from Redwood City, CA made her donation to the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
UCSF’s Child Life Services provides crucial benefits to their young hospital patients, like school programs, art therapy, and of course—reading activities. Books can help these children learn while they’re missing school, can help prepare them for procedures, and can simply add a little joy to their lives.
Literati is thrilled to have helped Julia and Anne give back to their own communities. We know that literacy goes a long way in a child’s life. And every book helps.
A (WHOPPING!) 4,000 books went to our partner Rebels For Humanity. And then, all the way to Haiti!
Keneisha Johnson (“KJ”) works at the Literati warehouse, taking care of our books in storage. One day, she wondered out loud, “Where do all these books go?” So she got in touch with Vanessa, Literati’s partnerships manager and the head of our donations program. Turns out, KJ is the Founder and CEO of Rebels For Humanity, an Austin-based organization that started as support for the homeless community and has since expanded their services. So, Vanessa answered KJ’s question: “These books can go wherever you feel people might need them.”
KJ has partnered with her old friend Mark Meyer of the Me’Yer Deus Foundation, and together they are reaching far beyond the borders of Texas. A portion of the books were distributed to in-home child care centers across Austin, to help spread the literacy love here at home. The rest were shipped to Haiti, where many poverty-stricken communities have children in desperate need of education and school supplies. KJ and Mark have turned their shared passion into major action through Project Haiti, filling libraries of orphanages and schools across the region.
“We are helping to expand their understanding of the world. Sending books is a way of saying ‘someone cares about you; we care about your education,’” KJ tells us.
We’re glad KJ asked the question that sparked Literati’s first donation outside of the US. Because every child, in every country, deserves the chance to learn to read. KJ, who is actually working on writing an autobiography, puts it perfectly.
“Being able to read is so important. You can’t do anything in life if you don’t know how to read. It’s incorporated in everything.”
(Pssst: Want to chip in to help Mark and KJ send more supplies to Texan and Haitian children in need? You can donate here.)
3,000 books were donated to the Manor, TX school district with the help of one determined librarian.
Since the pandemic has caused many schools to depend on virtual learning, educators have faced unique challenges in making sure children are getting the education and inspiration they need. We know that reading is one of the best ways for children to stay ahead in their mental and behavioral development, inside and outside the classroom. And these days, we have to make sure “outside the classroom” really counts.
Shannon Kehoe is the librarian at Decker Elementary School in Manor, TX. She understands how critical reading is for young minds, so she’s stepping up to make sure kids—not only at her school, but across all the Manor Independent School District—have access to books at home. So MISD plans to set up a book bus that will go to every school parking lot.
A school bus filled with free books? Is there anything better?
“We’ll let them pick books from the bus, so they can read for pleasure, which correlates to success in life. The idea is to get the books to whoever wants them,” explains Shannon.
With no public library in the county, this traveling library could make a major impact on families during these strange times. Because we also know that reading can be an effective remedy for stress, so it’s never been more important to put more books in more homes.
Literati was able to provide not only a large number of books, but the right stories for these Title I schools. Decker, Shannon’s school, is 90% Hispanic, and she has been working to build a library of diverse, bilingual books and characters that represent the children who will soon dive into their pages.
“We didn’t have enough books that are mirrors or windows into another culture. We were able to build that with the Literati donation. I’m so excited!”
We share your excitement, Shannon! People like you inspire us to keep working, every day, to put more books in more hands.
So, what’s next?
With the help of partners like KJ, Shannon, and our members—another 100,000 and beyond! Literacy will continue to be a crucial component of childhood education and development. We’ve seen how reading can bring opportunities to children that need it most. So, our work is never finished.
If you’re a Literati member, don’t forget to use your little blue box to send in your own donations. We couldn’t do this without your contributions, so keep em’ coming! We and our donation recipients are grateful for your continued help!
If you know of an organization that could benefit from a donation of outstanding, unique and diverse children’s books, please reach out. We’d love to chat!