Many communities run annual book drives in support of “A Book Under Every Tree” or similar project. These donated books are distributed among food bank or community pantry hampers so every family has books as part of its holiday season. In recent years in my community, there have been close to 350 recipients of hampers, including about 260 children under 18. All indicators are that the need for helping hampers is as great, if not greater, this year.
So the book drives begin! In my wonderful community, it feels as if everyone is helping out:
- Donations pour in! I can tell that many people save their books for this occasion, and continue to donate year after year
- Schools encourage students to name favourite books and compose book “wish lists”
- Grocery stores up and down our valley place collection bins to receive donations
- For many years, the local book store helped us get new, relevant books
- The local library combs its shelves and storage for popular books and fills in when a certain age group needs supplementing
- One of the service clubs gives a generous monetary donation to buy new titles
- Volunteers count, sort, and bundle the books and place them in the hampers on distribution day.
The annual Book Under Every Tree project has become a family tradition in my household. My school-age kids enjoy giving some of their books, and making “Top 10” lists for their age groups to inform the purchase of new books. They help to sort book donations, and their insight is helpful when I don’t know if a book will be better for a boy, girl, eight or 14-year-old. On distribution day, I excuse them from school for a couple of hours so they may come to the community hall and “run” the book bundles to the numbered hampers. These activities are fun for us as a family, but they also advance my children’s understanding of the value of books and reading.
Readers know that reading is enriching, enlightening and enjoyable, but only if you have a book! If you find yourself interested in giving the gift of reading, you can help by donating new or gently used books to a local book drive. The books are gifts, so they should be in excellent condition with no marks or names. You can offer to help your local Christmas bureau, Food Bank, Book Bank or library; if there isn’t a book drive in your area, you can start one! You can think of unconventional places to access books, such as Little Free Libraries, Wild Books, and Books Everywhere programs. And you can always contact your local Community Literacy Coordinator for ideas on how you can help or volunteer.
It means a lot to me to enhance this wonderful time of year in meaningful ways. I wish everyone a wonderful, wintry December full of warming reading!
Community Literacy Coordinator
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy - Windermere Valley