If Thanksgiving is a time for us to be grateful for what we have, Giving Tuesday and the gift-buying period is the perfect time to put that feeling into action. Books and literacy can change the world we live in for the better: children who are read to at home report higher abilities in math and writing; literacy rates are an important indicator of future earning potential; reading enjoyment has been reported as more important for children’s educational success than their family's socio-economic status. With that in mind, below are 10 charities devoted to getting books into the hands of those without the resources to obtain them as well as improving the literacy of children and adults worldwide.
Book Aid International: In parts of Africa where books are scarce, Book Aid International supplies over 2,600 libraries with around 1 million new books donated by publishers each year. The organization also provides training to librarians. Literacy reduces poverty, provides opportunities to work, and increases household income, so programs like these are vital to the well-being of humankind! Donate to Book Aid International.
First Book: First Book provides books and learning materials to programs and schools serving low-income families. With more than half of US public school students living in low-income households, the need for access to books is vital. Educators and program leaders can sign up with First Book to receive new books for children. Donate to First Book.
LitWorld: LitWorld tackles illiteracy by cultivating a love of reading and writing for children in the poorest parts of North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. By collaborating with local partners who speak and understand that region's language and culture, LitWorld is able to adapt to each community's literacy needs. Since two thirds of the world's illiterate people are women, LitWorld focuses two thirds of its programming on girls and women. Donate to LitWorld.
Living Paintings: A UK charity, Living Paintings publishes tactile and audio books for blind and partially sighted children and adults. The books are available through their library completely free of charge (including free return shipping) with no overdue fees. They also help people set up book clubs for the blind and partially sighted in their communities. Donate to Living Paintings.
Reach Out and Read: Utilizing evidence-based programs, Reach Out and Read incorporates early literacy into pediatric care by partnering with the child's first medical provider. By offering books to low-income families in the US and promoting the value of reading aloud at home, children served by their local Reach Out and Read achieve higher language scores and greater literacy skills. Donate to Reach Out and Read.
Room to Read: Working in developing countries, Room to Read develops literacy skills among primary school children and supports girls in completing secondary school. One of the highest rated charities on Charity Navigator, this organization sets ambitious goals and uses data to improve their programs each year. Donate to Room to Read.
get involved & Donate
Milk + Bookies: Milk + Bookies packages all the materials you need to host a book collection party at your school, kid's birthday party, book store etc. Each guest brings a book and the children in attendance inscribe the bookplates with a message, involving them in the giving back process. You then deliver the books to the local organization of your choice. Donate to Milk + Bookies or learn how to host a book-raiser.
Women's Prison Book Project (WPBP): WPBP recognizes the need for certain kinds of reading material for imprisoned women/transwomen (most of whom are in prison for non-violent crimes) and makes these books available to them free of charge. An all-volunteer organization, people are always needed to help in their Minneapolis office, donate books (a requested list can be found here), or donate money.
826 National: Dave Eggers founded 826 to serve as creative writing and tutoring centers for under-served students aged 6-18 across the US. Each 826 chapter offers after-school tutoring, writing workshops, book creation, and more—all free of charge. Donate to 826 or volunteer as a tutor, graphic designer, workshop leader, and so on.
Where possible, I verified these organizations on Charity Navigator and Charity Commission. Some, however, are too small or too new to be rated, so always do your own due diligence by reading their Annual Reports.