Free Printed Books Make World Book Day a True Global Event
One of my favorite lyrics about the importance of books comes from the Kindred the Family Soul song “What Happens Now.” Fatin Danzler sings the following about his son, “He’s already reading-no need to search for nothing else.” Those most powerful words are the epitome of why reading is so important: it opens the world to children, to everyone.
The sentiment in that song is the essence of World Book Day (April 23), which was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote “creativity, diversity, and access to knowledge” (UNESCO, 2022). However, access to literature for all continues to be a challenge.
“Book deserts,” areas in which books are hard to come by, are common in high poverty neighborhoods (Neuman & Moland, 2019). Local libraries are a great choice to address this issue; yet, there are a whopping 2.5 million children attending schools in districts where there are no libraries. The following are just some of the organizations that have taken great strides to put printed books in children’s hands for free or at the cost of shipping:
- Book Banks – the Maryland Book Bank and the Heartland Book Bank are examples of book banks which provide donated books for free to individuals and organizations
- Little Free Library – individuals and stewards of Little Free Library are eligible to receive free books
- Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library – families of children under 6 who live in select areas around the world can receive one free book a month
- International Book Project – children in parts of the United States and select international locations can receive free books
- Library of Congress – surplus books are provided to institutions and organizations that meet certain criteria
- WNDB in the Classroom – free diverse books are sent to classrooms in low-income schools in the United States
- Better World Books – books are donated to organizations for the cost of shipping
- Moms Helping Moms Foundation – each child they serve receives at least one book in English or Spanish with every wish list fulfillment and parents/caregivers are provided literature in English or Spanish on the importance of early reading and spoken language
- Reading Good – free books are given to elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods
- First Book Marketplace – Book Bank – First Book members can order free books but must pay shipping and handling costs if the books are to be delivered
- Literacy Empowerment Foundation – 100 book sets are sent to any literacy-based effort through their Reading Resource Project at the cost of shipping, handling, and administrative fees
Providing access to books is one step while another is ensuring that children can read them. WORD Force, a free online reading program, promotes development of early childhood literacy skills and therefore is critical to leveling the playing field of access to reading acquisition. WORD Force will provide e-books to students during the 2022-2023 school year. Take a look at the WORD Force website (families, teachers) to learn more about its offerings and how to register.
In honor of World Book Day, go share with colleagues about the free resources mentioned above, including WORD Force. Having access to books and a program that supports children’s ability to read paves the way to achieve the essence of World Book Day.
Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman
Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman is the Vice President of Early Literacy Impact at EVERFI. In her role she enjoys collaborating with colleagues across units as well as external stakeholders on early literacy projects as a subject matter expert. Dr. Coleman’s career focus on spoken language and literacy has been infused in her work in public and private schools, public and private universities, and a not-for-profit association. She is a board member of Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia and Learning Disabilities Association of America.