Ways to Give Kids the Gift of Books

Recognizing the importance of getting books in children’s homes.

Two sisters reading a book before bedtime.

(Shevtsova Yuliya / Shutterstock.com)

Children who grow up in homes where there are books do better in school and thrive. The more books the better, according to a study published in Science Direct on how books enhance adult literacy. The researchers studied 160,000 adults and found that having 80 or more books in their home libraries as a child allowed them to obtain higher reading levels and communication skills.

Why is that? According to Big Think, there are two factors that contribute to the higher literacy rates. Growing up in a pro-knowledge and learning home is an important influence on older children. The second factor is that growing up with early exposure to books lays a solid foundation for literacy and numeracy. So, the younger the better really matters.

But some families where the parents have less education may not recognize the importance of owning books in terms of educational and life opportunities or may not be able to afford books. Fortunately, the organization Reading Rockets reported, there are organizations and local programs that understand the importance of book ownership and put books into the hands and homes of young children.   

Imagination Library
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is an extremely popular program that provides free books to children from birth to age five and is available in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and Ireland. Every month, the child receives a book directly to their mailbox and there are 2,215,764 kids enrolled and 193,008,232 books have been given away since the program began in 1995.

But it started small. Parton began the Imagination Library In her hometown of Sevier County, Tennessee, according to the organization’s website. She was inspired by her father, who never learned to read and write, to give kids the gift of literacy.

“When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true, Parton said. “I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer. The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”

 The cost of the books and the postage are covered by the Dollywood Foundation and local partners that include businesses, nonprofit organizations, schools, and local municipalities.

Pajama Program
This New York based nonprofit gives new books and pajamas to kids who live in shelters, group homes, or temporary homes, reported Huffington Post. Founded in 2001, by Genevieve Piturro, the program promotes a healthy bedtime routine and healthy sleep which includes pjs and bedtime stories.

According to the Pajama Program’s website a comforting bedtime routine can make a big difference for kids. That’s why the organization's motto is Good Nights are Good Days. Since its inception, the organization has provided over 7.5 million good nights and provides support and resources to children and their caregivers by partnering with 4,000 community-based organizations throughout the US.

“The sustaining power of literacy brings undeniable solace. Beyond the simple comfort reading generates, literacy brings a greater contentment: the knowledge that children can follow their dreams in the waking hours as well as in their sleep,” wrote in a HuffPost blog.

PJ Library
PJ Library is a unique program that gets Jewish content books into the hands of kids from birth through age eight. Unless you live in a major Jewish area, books about Passover, Purim and other holidays are hard to find.

That’s why the Harold Grinspoon Foundation founded it in 2005 as a literacy and engagement program for Jewish families with young children, according to the PJ Library website. The foundation partners with local communal organizations and philanthropists to give quality books to kids.

The library sends more than 230,000 books into the mailboxes of enrolled children’s homes each month all across the US and Canada. Today, PJ library has expanded to five continents that range from Mexico to Ukraine. Many participating organizations have events and programming for kids too.

The Wonderful Benefits of Storytime
How to Foster a Love of Reading in Your Children
This Library Gives Kids and Teens Books for Summer Reading