For millions of American students, July marks the beginning of summer and the completion of another year of school. Despite the grade level or location, many American students share one thing in common: stacks of books they will likely never open again. Stacks of already-read novels, or subject-and-grade-specific textbooks, will sit and collect dust for the remainder of their shelf lives.
There is a much smarter option for used books: donation. Taking five minutes to donate a pile of used books could change the life of a child or adolescent forever.
Today, 250 million children worldwide cannot read. Most of these children live in developing countries, and education affords them with one of the only opportunities to break the cycle of poverty: employment. But many children simply cannot acquire the necessary literacy skills because they lack access to libraries and an appropriate selection of books, not to mention physical classrooms and quality teachers.
Donating used books is an incredibly simple, powerful way in which we as a nation can help alleviate the global education crisis. Not sure where to start? Here are three organizations that can help you place your books into the hands of children who need them most:
1. Books for Africa (BFA) has shipped over 28 million books to 49 countries since 1988. BFA believes that a culture of literacy is truly the most empowering asset a community can have. The organization currently accepts: fiction and non-fiction books that are 15 years old or newer; primary, secondary and college textbooks; reference books (such as encyclopedias) published in 2003 or later; and medical, nursing and law books published in 1998 or later. A team of BFA volunteers sorts and packs these books, ensuring that each box of books is donated to the appropriate classroom or organization. For information on where to ship donations, please visit Books for Africa.
2. Better World Books (BWB) collects and donates books to support and fund literacy initiatives worldwide and also sells new books. Not only does the organization accept funds and book donations, but for every book purchased on BWB’s website, another book is donated to literacy programs worldwide. The organization boasts 10 million donated books to partner programs — including Books for Africa — around the world since its 2002 beginning. For information on how to donate books and what books are accepted, as well as directions for printing a shipping label for your donation, please visit Better World Books.
3. Room to Read began in Nepal in 2000, when the organization began bringing donated books to rural communities in need. Today, the organization works globally and is dedicated to promoting and enabling education through programs focused on literacy and gender equality in education. Room to Read has thus far reached 7.8 million children by establishing school libraries, donating and publishing local-language children books and training teachers on literacy education. The organization has distributed 14,588,494 books worldwide since 2000. Though it’s not currently accepting book donations, Room to Read partners with Better World Books, a partnership that ensures that books are being placed where they’re needed most. The organization does accept monetary donations online at Room to Read.
If every child received an education, 170 million people would escape the chains of poverty. In a nation where education resources and tools are a given, we have a great responsibility — and opportunity — to contribute to the fight against the global achievement gap. Donating books or funds that support global literacy programs helps equip children in impoverished communities with the tools necessary not only to learn and succeed as students, but also to establish a better life for themselves, for their families and for generations to follow.
– Elizabeth Nutt