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At Books for Keeps, we want to help build communities that view literacy as a human right belonging to all people.

What is literacy, anyway? People define literacy in all sorts of ways. We especially like this one from the National Council of Teachers of English: "At its simplest, literacy is the way that we interact with the world around us, how we shape it and are shaped by it. It is how we communicate with others via reading and writing, but also by speaking, listening, and creating. It is how we articulate our experience in the world and declare, “We Are Here!”"

A strong grasp on core literacy skills from an early age can help lay the foundation to support reading proficiency, a critical tool in every child's toolkit throughout their academic experiences and beyond. At Books for Keeps, we believe that reliable book access is one of the first steps towards shoring up this foundation. Research consistently indicates that access to books in the home as early as possible is one of the most important factors influencing a child’s early education success including proficiency in letter recognition, counting to 20, and reading (Lindsay 2010).

 

Early book access matters, and continuing that access for children ages 6-12 is integral for a child’s long-term academic success. Reliable access to relevant reading material has been directly linked to grade-level reading proficiency in the elementary years (Allington et. al). Reading proficiently by the end of third grade (as measured by NAEP at the beginning of fourth grade) can be a make-or-break benchmark in a child’s educational development. Up until the end of third grade, most children are learning to read. Beginning in fourth grade, however, they are reading to learn, using their skills to gain more information in subjects such as math and science, to solve problems, to think critically about what they are learning, and to act upon and share that knowledge in the world around them. (Annie E. Casey Foundation).

With only 35% of 4th graders reading proficiently nation-wide (NAEP 2022), we believe that organizations like Books for Keeps can help meet an urgent need with a lasting impact.

Unfortunately, children in lower-income communities often do not receive equitable book access; 61% of low-income families report having no books at all in their homes for children. One of Books for Keeps' long-term goals is to engage more children across Georgia in reading by providing guaranteed access to books throughout the calendar year for children ages 0-12. Our book access programs prioritize children who might be unable to access books outside of the school year or school/daycare setting in order to help narrow the opportunity gap between these children and their more economically-advantaged peers. We have consistently seen the impact of book access across the communities we serve. Elementary students receiving books through our book access programs gain an average of 1 to 2 months of reading achievement each summer and gain 10-20% more levels in reading than their peers not in the program. Distributing high-interest, age-appropriate books is critical in building literacy-rich environments for all and serves as a first step towards developing the literacy landscapes of the communities we serve. 

 

Books for Keeps has spent the past decade focused on expanding equal access to books for all elementary school students in its communities. Observing the drastic affects of COVID-19 on student learning across our community, state, and nation, Books for Keeps identified an opportunity in 2022 to deepen its impact. In addition to expanding our book access programs to get more books into the hands of younger readers, we also looked for ways to further leverage these book access points for kids and families. With the support of our community, we began to expand our programming to include more robust literacy resources for young readers and their families. We also launched a Literacy Mentor Program for local elementary students to provide one-on-one reading support throughout the school year. These changes have allowed us to adapt our mission, vision, and values in a way that better reflects the needs of our service communities.

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Make an impact. 
Inspire joyful experiences with literacy today.
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