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Within Reach

January 17, 2013
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Last evening, our third-grader brought an old favorite downstairs: “The Snow Queen and Other Tales,” a collection of Hans Christian Andersen stories. I hadn’t seen her with that book for a year or two, and when I said as much to her, she explained, “For homework I need to read a text and practice using context clues to figure out words I might not know. I thought it would be fun to read back through this one.”

In fact, her language-arts homework assignment every weeknight starts with “Find a [fiction/nonfiction/biography/folk and oral traditions/reference/etc.] text and read it for at least 20 minutes.” It struck me last night: How do the kids who have no books at home get their assignments done? Do they? Or do they just give up?

True, they have access to school libraries. But the sad reality is that by second and third grade, library time rarely happens. Kids are expected to visit the library before and after school. Except, if you ride the bus, you often arrive two minutes before the final bell in the morning, and at day’s end you’re often not allowed to leave your classroom until it’s time to walk straight to your bus. If you carpool, you’re in the carpool line.

True, they have access to classroom libraries. But some teachers’ libraries are larger and more varied than others. Our daughter’s wonderful teacher, for instance, is young and in just his fourth year of teaching. He’s made a great start, but his library is a little smaller than those of some other teachers. It’ll get there–in the meantime, though, it’s hard to imagine how it could cover nightly assignments across a number of genres. Plus, how many third-graders are likely to look ahead at all of the homework assignments for the week, browse for and select the right array books to cover them, and return those books at the end of each week?

True, their parents could take them to the public library each week. But many of these kids’ parents are working two and three jobs; afternoons browsing at the library aren’t on the day’s schedule.

In that moment, watching our daughter cozy down with an old favorite book, I felt grateful all over again to be part of Books Are Magic.

ALL kids need books within their reach at home. Beyond all the academic and social benefits of book ownership, all kids need the opportunity to do their homework as assigned. They have the right to enjoy those feelings of responsibility and accomplishment.

They have the right not to be reminded, every weeknight, that they don’t have the same resources their classmates have at home–shelves and shelves of them, right within reach.

That’s why Books Are Magic gathers donations of a wide variety of new and gently used books. It’s why we set up “book stores” by genre to distribute books to the kids who need them–so they can shop and choose a variety of books to help build a complete home library.

Books Are Magic is starting the new year in a wonderful position: ready to serve more kids in more schools with more books. As we expand, those needs will continue to grow. Can you be a part of it? Can you…

donate some gently used books?
organize a book drive at your school, church, workplace, or in your neighborhood?
use the Paypal link above to donate a few tax-deductible dollars right now?

We look forward to having YOU work with us to build home libraries for all kids who need them. It might take years of work, but we are convinced our goal is within reach. Will you help us get there.

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