Maybe your children have gone off to college. Perhaps you’re downsizing or, in a Marie Kondo-inspired bout of organizing, you’re looking for a new home for some of the children’s books that piled up over the years.
The Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank is more than ready to help you out.
For the first quarter of our company’s Crain Cares initiative, Crain’s Cleveland Business is supporting the book bank, a Cleveland nonprofit that collects donated books to give to children — from early readers up to high school students — across Cuyahoga County. Two shifts of Crain’s Cleveland employees spent Tuesday, March 19, at the book bank’s home on 3635 Perkins Ave., sorting gently used books that had been donated. (For the past few weeks, we also collected books in the office to donate to the organization.)
The mission, as the book bank says on its website, is to “foster improved literacy and a love of reading by providing free books to children in need.”
Staff members, volunteers and donors have done quite a lot of that in the past three years.
The book bank, formed in March 2016, has distributed more than 1.8 million children’s books. This February, with 75,000 books distributed, was the biggest month in the organization’s history, said Judy Payne, the organization’s executive director and, with Judi Kovach, its co-founder.
Access to books is important. It’s critical, research shows, for brain development and academic success, and the organization notes on its website that books “expose children to the world beyond their neighborhood.” Yet Payne said about two-thirds of low-income area residents have no books in their home — a problem the book bank addresses by working with more than 700 partner organizations drawing on the efforts of thousands of volunteers each year.
The organization distributes books in three ways:
• through social service agencies that teach parents and caregivers to read with their children;
• at Little Free Libraries; and
• via schools, pediatricians, childcare centers and after-school programs.
There are a variety of ways you can get involved. Among them: Sort and box books at the Kids’ Book Bank, individually or as a group; stock Little Free Libraries; help with fundraising; organize a one-time or ongoing book collection through your church/school/employer; organize a read-a-thon at your school or camp to benefit the Kids’ Book Bank; or make a donation. The book bank says each $1 donated enables it to provide four books to a child.
So far, there are seven outdoor book collection bins across Cuyahoga County, at sites in Bay Village, Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Cleveland, Fairview Park, Lakewood and Orange. Payne said a couple more may be installed soon.
Sorting the books was a blast. (Didn’t hurt that the background soundtrack included Abba, Hall and Oates, Queen and Rick Springfield.) Going through a bin of books can be a nostalgic experience, too: Lots of the “Captain Underpants,” “Goosebumps” and “Clifford” books brought back very particular recollections.
Payne said the organization frequently receives letters from children who have received books. Some of those notes hang in the warehouse on Perkins. One, in which a girl drew her picture carrying some books, was beautiful in its brevity and simplicity: “Thank you for the books. Thanks for being nice. I love the books.”