A little while ago, I promised to share more stories of Discover Books community outreach with everyone. I’ve poured though thousands of write ups from events and individuals benefiting from our books. The biggest take-away is Discover Books believes in donating books to those in need, especially kids.
We’ve have kept a low profile about our literacy efforts for several reasons. First, we didn’t want anyone to confuse us with a non-profit organization. We are a for-profit company who believes in giving back to the communities we serve. We believe that everyone should have access to books, and that businesses have an obligation to be sustainable and do good in the world.
Second, we didn’t like tooting our own horn. We just enjoyed doing good for the sake of doing good. We could count books donated or books recycled but we honestly do it so often that we didn’t think much about it.
However, we realized we were holding back information that was important to you our loyal customers. Without your support, none of this would be possible. You deserve to know about the good you are doing. It always amazes me what can be accomplished when businesses, customers, and communities come together. This symbiotic relationship makes the world just a little better place to live. Thank you for trusting us to deliver on our promise to keep books out of landfills and in the hands of readers.
Looking back through our history of working with partners to get books in the hands of those in need, I came across this incredible story that was never published anywhere. It is a letter from Joan Abrevaya, a Board Trustee of The Friends of the Seattle Public Library (now retired), who worked with Discover Books for years helping us get books to children in need. Her efforts were amazing and we applaud her work.
“It has been my pleasure to work with Tyler Hincy at Discover Books for the last two years to get books into children’s homes in high need (Title I) schools. As a Board Trustee of the Friends of The Seattle Public Library, I have the privilege of working with teachers and librarians in the Seattle Public Schools, especially the Title I schools.
At least 75% of students in a school must qualify for free or reduced-price lunches for a school to be classified as Title I. Currently, 31 Seattle schools are listed as Title I and can receive special funding.
The Friends have a grant that allows us to provide teachers in these schools with $100 teacher vouchers to use as our Books Sales. Being in charge of our Books for Teachers program, I have access to most of these schools and their staff. The books that teachers receive through our grant are used in classroom libraries.
When Discover Books approached me to help them gain access to the schools so elementary students could bring books home, it was a perfect match.
Although you might think it is easy to access school staff when you are offering free books, it has been a very challenging project. Getting teachers, principals, and school librarians to return a call or email is not a simple thing. Fortunately, after five years of working with the schools, I have an easier time doing this. This year, over 150 teachers in Title I schools will receive teacher vouchers. Working with Tyler and getting books into homes was a dream come true for me.
When Discover Books and I first started, our first school was Sanislo Elementary. The school librarian, Craig Seasholes, is a great supporter of The Seattle Public Library and the Friends. He is perhaps the best school librarian in the City.
We planned a significant event to hand out free books on the same night as Poetry Reading night. Parents came with their children to hear the students read their poetry. As a bonus, each student present with their parent received five books to take home with them (the other students received their books the following day).
The books were displayed by reading level. At the end of the night, parents and students were able to choose books together. Parents kept coming up to me, thanking me for the incredible gift to their families (younger siblings could also get books).
I recall a student in about the 4th grade picking up picture books to take home. I started to talk to him, ask what he liked, steered him over to books at his grade level, and put down the easy reading picture books. At one point, his father caught my eye and mouthed the words “thank you.”
Another father looked at the books his son had taken and said he could take two easy read books, but he also wanted him to take three higher-level books to read over the summer. I liked that, and we found those books for him.
The local Seattle Public Children’s Librarian was also there, helping families get library cards and helping students pick out books. This was the best start to our giving away books that I could have imagined. I recall as I was helping to unload the boxes of books how shockingly impressed I was by the high quality of the books.
At another of our earlier giveaways, a group of 3rd graders was sitting with the bags of books (10 books each in that school). They were happily comparing the books they got and starting to read their new treats. Tyler (from Discover Books) was with me at this event. Before leaving, a young boy asked me when they had to bring the books back (we had announced that the books were going home with them, and their teachers had told them this, but the books were on tables in the school library). I told the boy that these books were his to keep forever. Heads popped up, and he repeated, “Forever?” And I said, “Yes, forever and ever,” By this time, the students were happily saying, “Forever and ever and ever!”
So many of us take books for granted. But a large majority of the students who receive books from Discover Books have very few books in their home that they own. Giving them this gift of books and the love of reading could not be more needed, necessary, and empowering.
Our City Librarian, Marcellus Turner, is hoping to take time out of his crazy schedule to attend one of our book giveaways with me. He speaks of the need to get more books into children’s homes with great passion and is so pleased and impressed with the Friends partnership with Discover Books.
On behalf of the Board of the Friends, I thank you so much for letting me be a part of this fantastic program. The partnership of Discover Books, The Seattle Public Library, the Friends of the Library, and our public schools’ students could not be more needed or rewarding. I hope we can continue doing this for many years together.”
To read more about our work with Maryland libraries read here.