Building a Bookshelf improves literacy in children by providing books to programs, partners and families that serve children in need.
Building a Bookshelf was started in 2010 by Rachel and Geoff. We are 100% volunteer-driven, and we do it because we feel it is important to contribute to the community as much as possible. We know that the lack of books in low income homes is a simple problem to solve. When we started out, we thought that if we personally distributed 20 books a year, that would be a win. We really never thought we would distribute almost 25,000 books in our first 5 years! We are continuously amazed at the support of the community who have joined with us and support our efforts with monetary or book donations that multiply our efforts and help us realize the dream of putting books in the hands of every child.
I wrote the following in 2010 when we were starting out on the journey...
It was sometime around 1994 or 1995 and there was a story on NPR about public school funding. It was about how public schools were having to cut funding for certain programs and the effect it had on the kids. The journalist was reporting from an inner-city New York school. One of the examples she used in her story was about this school’s library and the fact that there was no money in the budget to keep the books current.
She pulled a book off the shelf that was about South Africa. She opened the book and read a section that said (this is paraphrased since I can’t remember the exact quote from a decade ago) that Nelson Mandela was someone who had opposed apartheid publicly and had been convicted of treason, sentenced to death, and hanged.
This story was being broadcast at a time when Nelson Mandela was the recently elected President of South Africa and apartheid had been overthrown (or whatever it is that we did to it). I was completely flabbergasted. First, it was such a triumphant and inspiring moment when Mandela became president that I felt that everyone on earth should know about it. It is one of those rare moments when something so spectacularly good happens that the entire human race is lifted up.
Second, think of the difference in impact that the story has on an inner-city kid with the two alternate endings: Fight against injustice and stand-up for what you believe – against all odds – and you will be hanged. OR Fight against injustice and stand up for what you believe – against all odds – and you can prevail and rise to the highest level of success.
Kids have enough negative in their lives. They don’t need false negatives too. Heck – the same goes for adults!
I vowed right then and there that ‘someday’ I would do what I could to make sure that kids have access to books. So, it has been rattling around in my brain ever since.
And then ‘someday’ finally came.
In early 2009, my husband and I faced a medical crisis that made us come to terms with ‘end of life’ decisions. We had to discuss ‘what happens if…’. It was a stressful time and a stressful process, but it really has a way of helping you come to terms with your priorities. The medical crisis has passed, and everything turned out in the best case scenario rather than the worst. It was out of my gratitude that everything had turned out OK that I realized that ‘someday’ didn’t have to be at the end of my life.
Why was I waiting for someday when I could do something about it now? What would be more perfect about someday? It seemed dumb that I would put off making an impact in people’s lives until someday since I don’t know when someday is. By definition, 2009 is someday compared to 1995 – so the time has come and I’m not going to put it off anymore.
Of course, I can’t do this alone, so I’m hoping that you will take the journey with me. I’ll do the reading and you sponsor me. Together, we will raise money to buy books for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access. Whether it is 100 books or 1,000,000 – we will have an impact.
For each of us individually, the sacrifice is small. However, as a group, our impact will be huge.
Copyright 2010 - 2015. Building a Bookshelf, Inc. - a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All Rights Reserved.