January 9, 2017
National Book Foundation thinks that everyone should be reading… Has a plan… A good one…
by Ryan Harrington
Let’s face it, bookstores are a luxury. They’re increasingly absent from even the most affluent blocks, but they are especially scarce in low-income neighborhoods where a majority of the inhabitants live in public housing. Up to four million children live in public housing in America. That is to say four million children live in areas that are known as “book deserts.”
Re-energized under the leadership of Lisa Lucas, the National Book Foundation is launching the Book Rich Environment Initiative. A partnership with publishers, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development department, and the U.S. Department of Education, the initiative aims to funnel books into these communities, which may not be seeing bookstores anytime soon.
In a piece for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Schaub reports that as well as a 200,000-book donation from Penguin Random House, with Hachette and Macmillan also looking to help out,
The Urban Library Council and the Campaign for Grade Level Reading are additional partners. After the first book giveaway to housing residents, the Book Rich program will work with local libraries to provide community programming. The National Book Foundation will be a key part of those efforts, and with helping to connect these communities with authors.
The donated books will target a wide range of ages (of interest to both children and their families) and will represent voices as diverse as the readers who will benefit. And benefit they shall. According to Lucas, “To date, the National Book Foundation has given away over 30,000 books to young people through BookUp, our free afterschool reading program. Through the Book Rich Environment Initiative, we will expand that to over 300,000 books by the end of 2017.”
Ryan Harrington is an editor at Melville House.