A critical aspect of a child’s success depends on learning how to read. A child living in a book desert, with limited access to books, may not have the opportunity to develop the skills to become an engaged reader. Unfortunately, book deserts are often a reality for families living in low-income communities. In fact, some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the country report having one available book for every 300 children. Below are three ways you can increase access to books for communities who need them most. All of these volunteer initiatives not only bring books to communities in need, but can strengthen community relationships, and build new partnerships.
- Little Free Libraries - Measuring slightly larger than bird houses, Little Free Libraries can house a variety of books for people of all ages. Anyone may take a book, read it and return it at their convenience. Communities across the country have recognized the need for access to books among youth and have engaged volunteers to build Little Free Libraries around their neighborhoods, community centers, and more.
- Mobile Libraries - These libraries are unique because they operate out of buses or other transportation vehicles. Librarians and/ or volunteers drive the mobile libraries to communities where standard library buildings are not accessible or do not exist. Some extraordinary mobile libraries occupy boats, streetcars, and even a donkey.
- Literacy Kits - These kits include a book and a collection of related objects, games and other activities designed to make reading interactive and enjoyable for young children. Literacy kits are a popular volunteer activity, as they present an easy, fun, cost-effective way to engage with company employees. United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, among others in the United Way network, is a champion for engaging volunteers to package literacy kits. Visit their website for more information about literacy kits and for project examples.