Why is giving away free books important? Experts in children’s education Dr. Megan Kuhfeld and Dr. Beth Tarasawa have predicted a “COVID-19 slide.” Although the numbers vary, typically learning and academic achievement slows or declines over the summer months, that is, the “summer slide.” So combining the summer slide with early school closures, COVID-19 could have serious effects on children’s learning trajectories. This impact is much worse for low-income children, who don’t have easy access to books. Here are some people are trying to change that, through innovative and interesting methods.
1. Chrishawndra Matthews, founder of the nonprofit Literacy in the HOOD
Chrishawndra Matthews founded her nonprofit, Literacy in the HOOD (Helping Out Our Disenfranchised) in 2017, with a goal to bring books and reading to kids in need. And with COVID-19 limiting kids’ outdoor time and increasing screen time, she plans to spend her whole summer giving out free books to families in Cleveland, Ohio’s inner-city neighborhoods. Matthews goes to events already taking place in her community and, because of donations to her nonprofit, she is able to give out free books and information on further resources people can use.
Matthews says in a recent video about her efforts to stop the COVID-19 slide,
It’s really about how do we get the books in the parents’, in the children’s hand and how do we help them understand why we should be reading 15 to 20 minutes a day…they want these books.
Matthews has made it her mission to help kids in need increase their reading skills and keep their education from being affected too severely by COVID-19. And through her efforts to give out free books to low-income kids, she’s doing just that.
2. Madelyn Hatch and Valeria Polanco, Candor Girl Scouts
A local girl scout group in Candor, New York, recently started a “book mobile.” The idea was spearheaded by two fifth-grade girl scouts, Madelyn Hatch and Valeria Polanco, and their girl scout troop leader, Alicha Hatch. After discovering that they were having difficulty finding books and reading while the local library was closed because of the pandemic, as many libraries across the country are, the girl scouts decided to do something about it. They collected over 300 books from their elementary school and from members of the community and, once they’re finished being cleaned for safety reasons, the girls will give these books to anyone who wants them.
The girls’ book mobile is a clever way to distribute books and encourage reading for kids of all skill levels. Without the local library open, it would be very difficult for the kids of Candor to spend their summer reading new books if not for these girls’ efforts.
3. Little Free Libraries, Arts Alliance of Southern Indiana
The Arts Alliance of Southern Indiana has sponsored an innovative and crafty way of distributing free books to kids during the COVID-19 pandemic—old newspaper boxes. Retired newspaper boxes that once stood empty at nine elementary schools in Indiana are now filled with books, art supplies, and food. These “Little Free Libraries” are a great way for kids to get books that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to, with the local libraries being closed. The goal of the Little Free Libraries are to be accessible, engaging, and educational.
Laurie Kemp, a member of the Arts Alliance, said,
Summer camps, things that might otherwise engage the children, they’ve just not been able to access. So here we’re trying to put [the Little Free Libraries] in their local communities, places that they can walk to, that they can get these books, that they can get these art supplies, things that they may not otherwise have access to now.
With these free books, the Little Free Libraries will help kids stop their education and reading skills from sliding because of COVID-19, and that’s a valuable and worthy goal.
4. Debbie Hall, Federal and Student Enrichment Programs Director
Through the efforts of Debbie Hall, federal and student enrichment programs director, every student in Wyoming County is getting a package of free books. Schools in Wyoming County, in past years, have had summer reading programs or summer school classes available to combat the summer slide and keep kids learning. However, because of COVID-19, these programs were closed and schools had to shut their doors even earlier than usual. So Hall created this program, which, through the mail, gives each student three free books geared toward their grade and reading level.
The packages also contained a “Family Literacy Guide,” which will provide parents with guidelines and assistance on getting their kids interested in reading. It also educates them on the value of reading on a child’s education, stressing how important it is to stop the slide. With this package, Hall not only distributes free books that kids are at the right level to read, she also educates entire families on just how important programs like this one are, and how much good they can do for a kid.
5. Andy Liegl, Brave New World Comics and The Book Truck
Reading is definitely important for kids to continue their education and keep their reading skills up during the pandemic, but it’s also for fun too! Andy Liegal, the owner of the small business Brave New World Comics in Santa Clarita, California, is a big advocate of reading for fun. He had to close his store when Los Angeles County issued a stay-at-home order, but that didn’t stop him from trying to reach kids and promote reading. He partnered with The Book Truck, a nonprofit dedicated to giving books to foster care, homeless, and low-income kids and teens in Los Angeles County. During the pandemic, they’ve been sending out care packages to kids in need.
Brave New World Comics collected about 3,500 books to be donated to The Book Truck and distributed to kids in need. The books ranged from novels to comic books, and the variety will help kids who otherwise wouldn’t get to be excited about reading what they want to read.
Feature Image via: The Book Truck