We're always thrilled to discover a new non-profit that is doing good in the community. And if you read our blog regularly, you'll notice that we're major bookworms, so that's why we're excited to introduce you to Books For Kids, a wonderful non-profit that promotes literacy among children. In their own words, "the mission of the Books for Kids Foundation is to promote literacy among all children with a special emphasis on low-income and at-risk preschool-aged children. Books for Kids creates libraries, donates books, and partners with literacy programs to develop the critical early foundation and skills which young children need to be successful in life." We sat down with Exective Director Amanda Hirsh to learn more about Books for Kids and to get her picks for the hottest kids books for the summer. Love what they do? You can DONATE here!
LC: How was Books for Kids founded?
AH: Books for Kids was founded in 1986 by a few individuals in New York City who recognized that children who do not have adequate access to books must surmount enormous disadvantages when entering school. Books for Kids began as an informal project to collect and distribute 1,000 books to needy children for the holidays and quickly took on much greater dimensions when we placed 2,000 books in the first year and 9,000 in the next. It was clear to the founders that an organization providing access to age-appropriate books for low-income children with little or no resources was desperately needed.
LC: How do you choose the books that go into the Books for Kids libraries and other programs?
AH: The books that we put into our Books for Kids libraries are part of a carefully curated collection of books that we have worked on over time with librarians and literacy specialists. Our collection represents a wide variety of categories such as animals, classics and fairy tales, transportation, nature, and multicultural titles. Our books are all brand new and preschool-age appropriate, and we are careful to put in a mix of informational titles and purely fiction titles, as you would find at a real public library, so that teachers can use the books both for their lessons and for their StoryTimes.
Depending on the location of our library and the demographics of the children there, we may choose to add more books in another language to make sure we are catering to the needs of that particular community.
In all of our libraries, we also have a teacher's section of books, including reference books, that teachers can take out as resources for themselves.
LC: What is the reaction like of kids who are exploring a library for the first time?
AH: It is amazing to see the reaction of the children who are exploring their library for the first time. Their eyes light up and they have the hugest smiles when they see that this library is theirs to use, inside the very daycare or preschool where they spend the majority of their days. They love all the books, the puppets, the print-rich wall murals, and the reading nooks. For many of the children we serve, it is a real unique treat to have ready access to a space that imaginative, welcoming, and filled with so many books.
LC: Can you recommend some summer reads for us? What are the hot titles for summer 2013?
AH: Summer is the perfect time to have fun with reading by relating the books you read to the trips you will take or activities you plan. The 2013 Randolph Caldecott Honor Award winner, Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue and Pamela Zagarenski would be a great book to read before you take a summer trip to the zoo, whereas an older but classic Eric Carle title, Mr. Seahorse, would be a fun read if you're planning to head to the beach. Another favorite this year was the 2013 Caldecott Honor Book, Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, which to me represents all the beautiful greenery to look at during this time of the year.
LC: How can parents create a quiet place for kids to read or otherwise encourage them to engage with books?
AH: It is always preferable to read to or with your child in a quiet place where you both can focus. This means turning off the TV, radio, and even silencing your own cell phone. Summer is also a good time to take a trip to your local public library and read there. Not only will you be able to cool off from the heat, but also many public libraries offer special summer reading programs geared toward all age groups.
If you are a family that is always on the go or does not have access to a local library, you can always encourage some form of reading with your children. At the supermarket you can read labels, on the road you can read license plates and street signs, and at dinner you can read the menu or a recipe. And always remember to bring a book along, wherever you go, whether it's to the beach, the park, or even the pool!
LC: What was the first book you remember being enchanted by? My first favorite was "Busy Day, Busy People" by Tibor Girgely.
AH: One of the first books I remember being enchanted by was Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and Ronald Barrett, about a town called Chewandswallow, where it never rained or snowed regular rain or snow, but rained things like soup and juice, and snowed mashed potatoes and peas. As a child and still today, I love reading that book for its charming concept, wonderfully fun illustrations, and its pure imagination. There's nothing like reading to transport you to another place entirely, and to discover that ability in a book as a child is a special gift.