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Books Between Kids Builds Home Libraries One Summer at a Time


“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” – Neil Gaiman

For children to be successful in life, exposure to books is imperative. Research shows that children who grow up in a home without books are less likely to complete a basic education than those who grow up in a home with them. They are handicapped from the start.

As 85 percent of Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) children live below the poverty level, many don’t have access to reading at home. Food, clothing, and shelter are considered the necessities for these children, and books are deemed luxury or “want” items. Books Between Kids, a nonprofit organization, disagrees with this notion and is working to make books at home accessible to all children in need, believing they are fundamental to their development.

Founded in 2013, Books Between Kids serves Houston’s at-risk children by providing them with volumes with which to build their own home libraries. The nonprofit collects gently used and greatly loved books and dispenses them to children in need. They do this with the community’s participation. Volunteering time, making monetary donations, and donating books are all ways people can help.

To donate time, volunteers are welcome at the Books Between Kids warehouse in Southwest Houston where they will sort books for delivery to recipient schools. Monetary donations to help cover operational costs can be made at the organization’s annual fundraiser. This year’s will be held at the Armadillo Palace on November 08, 2017 at 7 p.m. Donations can also be made through Facebook by sharing the Books Between Kids Facebook page with friends and family and including the donate button. The age range of books to donate is Pre-K through fifth grade, and there is a special need for chapter books for children in grades three to five.

The organization’s mission is to ensure students have books to read while on their summer break. According to the research, reading six books during the summer can reduce “summer slide.” This occurs over the summer when most students, especially those from low-income families, tend to lose some of their reading ability. When founders Amy Barnes and Sandra Ahlhorn became aware of this fact, they began holding book drives at their children’s elementary school to help reverse the trend.

Every May, Books Between Kids distributes books to children across Houston at book celebrations held on HISD campuses. The organization partners with the schools to hold the celebration so each child at the school can select six books to take home and build their home library. This May, Books Between Kids had 69 partner schools and gave away books to 42,000 children. In addition, the nonprofit gave away its one millionth book at a celebration on May 23, 2017.
Books Between Kids works tirelessly to continue to provide summer reading and building home libraries for those in need. For two years running, the nonprofit has teamed up with Star Furniture and KHOU Channel 11 of Houston for the Turn the Page Literacy Initiative. The initiative is a community effort that helps shed light on Houston’s childhood literacy crisis and encourages summer reading throughout the Houston area. Because thousands of Houston’s children are without a single book to read in their homes, Turn the Page has invited the public to donate children’s books throughout the month of June for the last two years.

Through this year’s Turn the Page Literacy Initiative, over 10,000 books were collected.

Other local businesses are also there to help. Recently, the soft opening of Snooze saw supporters and friends of Books Between Kids gather to support the organization, one of the eatery’s philanthropic partners. The generous sum of over $4,700 was raised to help Houston’s children see their dream of their own home library come true.

Books Between Kids understands the importance having books at home is for all children. With a book at their fingertips, children can visit a new world, read about others just like them, and discover a wealth of new information any time they want to, and they can continue to develop their reading skills at the same time. These advantages help children develop their potentials, their dreams, and their future selves.

Perhaps the organization says it best with this quote from its latest newsletter, “We often talk about access to books as an important tool for improving childhood literacy. That it is, but we also know that books can do so much more! They can inspire, comfort, and challenge. A book can even inspire a child to make a difference in the world. When kids have access to books, the possibilities are limitless! Books do more than just help a child with his or her academic success. Books can even inspire a child to be a global citizen who leads their community to have a positive impact on the lives of others, and that is why it is so important that we make sure every child is a book owner!”

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