This Holiday Season, Support These 8 Nonprofits That Hand Out Books

Spread joy and literacy by helping these organizations get reading material to prisoners, underprivileged children, and others

Sign reading "Free Books"
Photo by Taber Andrew Bain
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As we approach a holiday season that will be different from any in our lifetime, it will be harder to volunteer in person, to give our physical energy to these causes that we cherish and love. It’s also an unusually challenging time to shop for gifts—if you have the spare cash to buy presents, you might feel you’re better off helping the many, many people who are struggling. So when you’re done helping to shore up indie bookstores, why not spend this Giving Tuesday supporting organizations that supply books to the people who need it most?

These programs supply books to everyone from incarcerated people to children from marginalized communities. Some are local, some have a national scope. But all of these nonprofits help put books into the hands of people who need them the most. And in this hard and lonely time, that’s more important than ever. 

One Book One New Orleans, New Orleans, LA

One Book One New Orleans strives to improve literacy and build community at the same time. Since being founded in 2004, One Book One New Orleans chooses a single book with a connection to the city of New Orleans to feature each year, building community events and programming around it. They strive to make the book more accessible to those with a limited budget or visual impairment, and distribute the chosen books to schools, prisons, and libraries, hosting monthly events centered around these books. Recently, OBONO has selected Clint Smith’s Counting Descent and New Orleans Griot: The Tom Dent Reader edited by Kalamu ya Salaam as their books. You can donate to OBONO here.

Books Through Bars, Philadelphia, PA

Books through Bars is based out of Philadelphia and delivers books to prisoners within seven states of the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. They’ve been delivering books to prisoners since 1990, and are all volunteer-based. The incarcerated or even their families can request books to be sent to the prison. You can donate books here, or donate money to sustain the program here

Kids Need to Read, Mesa, AZ

Kids Need to Read’s vision statement is “All children and adolescents will have access to quality books no matter their race, economic status, or capabilities.”  Kids Need to Read supply books to underfunded schools, libraries and literacy programs. You can donate here.

We Need Diverse Books, Bethedesa, MD

We Need Diverse Books has the simple and straightforward mission of “putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.” While this non-profit does all kinds of work to help readers and writers of various backgrounds, We Need Diverse Books in the Classroom is a program that “provides free diverse books to low-income schools around the country.” Helping children in all 50 states and with a program that hopes to help those most in need, We Need Diverse Books is an instrumental non-profit, and one worthy of some holiday love. You can donate to We Need Diverse Books here.

Hugo House, Seattle, WA

Hugo House is a writer center in Seattle Washington that hosts a bunch of programs featuring and helping authors. One of their main programs is called the Golf Pencil Project, which hosts weekly classes at the King County Jail for students currently incarcerated. Hugo House hopes to build “a big lending library” at the jail. You can see their paperback book donation recommendations here, or donate money here

Reforma, Anaheim, CA

REFORMA seeks to improve free access to Spanish language and Latinx-oriented materials by encouraging libraries to increase their stocks. The group is an affiliate of the American Library Association and has been around since 1971. There are over 20 active chapters in the country, ranging in locations from El Paso to Florida to Puerto Rico. You can donate to REFORMA here.

Book Aid International, England

Book Aid International’s mission “is to provide books, resources and training to support an environment in which reading for pleasure, study and lifelong learning can flourish.” Book Aid International believes that supplying books to people is to make an investment in the future. You can donate here.

Barbershop Books, New York, NY

According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 85% of Black fourth graders aren’t proficient in reading. New York-based Barbershop Books aims to turn Black boys into readers by bringing books into a place they already know, love, and go to frequently: the local barbershop. Barbershop Books hopes to turn barbershops into fun reading spaces for children, in order to normalize reading in a familiar place. You can donate to Barbershop Books here.

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