Reading has always been one of my go-to methods for getting over a funk or caring for myself when things get stressful or scary. In fact, one of the things I love most about fantasy now that I’m an adult is that the good guys (usually) triumph. A good friend of mine shared an image (and sentiment) online this morning that sums up why I (and many others) read for escape:
There are times when instead of escaping the negativity, I want to do something. Times when I just can’t see one more tragedy without extending a hand. I have so much. I’d like to share. There are so many ways that I (and you) can improve the life of another, but why not books? Here are a few ways to get books in the hands of people who need them:
Donate books to a school or library in need. The very same friend (yes, I have some amazing ones) brought to my attention this school library in California that hasn’t purchased a new book since 1991. (For some perspective, that was the year the Super Nintendo made its North American debut.) If you’re looking for something closer to home, contact your local library or check out the ALA website for a book donation program that catches your fancy. (After a quick search through their website I found a women’s shelter near me and a library a few counties over, both in desperate need of books.)
Donate books to a prison. I was recently telling Josh about my new desire to regularly donate books to a nearby prison when I remembered that my mom has been sending books to a local prison inmate from time to time for years. I guess mama does know best in all things. Most prisons have specific restrictions on types and sizes of books (many do not allow hardcover, for example, or only accept books straight from a bookstore), so do some research before you start sending books. You can donate books to a prison library or check this database for an organization that fills specific inmate requests. I found more than one organization specifically asking for current instructional manuals (art, computer science, etc.) and soft cover dictionaries (both English and English translation). Since my very favorite pocket Spanish-English dictionary has a soft (but sturdy) vinyl cover, I plan to grab a couple extra copies to send.
Donate time. One of the book-to-prison organizations here in NC is looking for volunteers to fill prisoner requests. I’d have to drive a few hours to get there, but the idea of searching their library of donated books for just the right book(s) appeals to the side of me that relishes in finding the perfect book when family birthdays roll around. Closer to home, I found a library near me that is looking for volunteers to help in their adult literacy program and a literacy council that pairs school children with a reading buddy. If a Google search for something in your area seems too broad, start here or by asking your local librarian.
As these ideas have percolated for the past few days, I’ve discovered so many other worthy book donation causes: books for soldiers, libraries cropping up in refugee camps, retirement homes and homeless shelters looking for books, and an adorable (but mostly empty) free library at the park down the road. Have you heard of anywhere else a motivated reader can share love of the written word?