Every child deserves to have a home library of their own.
That’s the idea behind the National Book Foundation’s Book Rich Environments program, which distributed more than 270,000 free books across the country last year, including 50,000 to children and young adults living in NYCHA buildings across the city.
This year that number has grown as more publishers join in, allowing the foundation to secure 422,000 books for kids who live in public-assisted housing. An estimated 75,000 of them will go to NYCHA residents. The book giveaways kick off in New York City on June 7 with events at NYCHA’s Carey Gardens in Brooklyn and Hammel Houses in Queens.
But with that largesse comes a big problem. How does the nonprofit get all those books to sites around the country?
Last year, the foundation used a grant to pay for the shipping costs. This year, however, they are turning to a CrowdRise Campaign on GoFundMe to raise the $25,000 needed.
“It’s a huge operation,” said Jordan Smith, director of education for the National Book Foundation. “You are talking about thousands of books being shipped on large pallets.”
The National Book Foundation may be best known for presenting the National Book Awards, but it also partners with educational programs to expand audiences for books, she said.
The Book Rich Environments program came out of a collaboration between federal housing and education officials. The idea is to bring free, high-quality books to people up to the age of 18 who may not have access to them or funds to purchase them.
“There are studies that show the important correlation between the number of books a young person owns and other indicators of success,” said Smith.
Last year, NYCHA held two events in every borough to distribute the books. They also used the opportunity to connect families with local libraries and sign kids and adults up for library cards. Hundreds of families showed up as kids scooped up 8 to 10 books each.
“Reading really is fundamental,” said Modestine Rogers, NYCHA’s administrator for family partnerships. “And not all kids have that access to good books. These are the kinds of things that will benefit them throughout their lives.”
Rogers said the agency will target neighborhoods in all five boroughs that were not part of last year’s giveaway.
Last year, pop-up books were a big draw, along with mystery novels, Dr. Seuss, and the “Twilight” series, said Ukah Busgith, NYCHA’s senior director for family partnerships. Classics like Ludwig Bemelmans’ “Madeline” books also proved to be popular.
While helping kids create or expand their own libraries, the books will also be used to boost offerings at community centers and NYCHA camp programs.
“Wherever kids are, they will be surrounded by books,” Rogers said.