There’s an interesting and, I think, wonderful program afoot called Fill the Shelves. Here’s what they have to say about who they are and how it all works:
What is Fill The Shelves?
We’re a small organization attempting to help with a really big problem. There are hundreds of school libraries in this country with nearly bare shelves. Kids with an endless supply of imagination – and nothing to read. We want to help with that.
How does it work?
We connect readers who want to help with libraries who need books – and we make it easy!
School librarians create Wish Lists on Amazon.com. We post the links to their lists here. Readers simply choose the school on our site they want to support, then click on the Wish List icon to go straight to that school’s list on Amazon. Pick the books you’d like to buy, and Amazon will ship them directly to the school. For most orders over $25, Amazon even pays for shipping!
I remember, years ago, when DBF worked at a local private high school in the Milwaukee area, she invited me to visit. We toured the school and, of course, stopped in to take a look at the library. The fiction shelves were empty. I mean, really empty.
Now, this is a school in a rather tough area of the city, and the student population reflected that toughness. My sense was that they were not, as a group, big readers. Of course, there was really no way for them to become big readers given the lack of a collection at their school’s rather pathetic library. (This was a very good school, by the way. Known for its academic prowess and innovative thinking. The library was really an outlier – and a surprise.)
My personal theory on reading is that once I get you hooked on reading anything, you’ll be hooked on reading. One of the reasons I loved the Harry Potter phenomenon was that there were scores of middle-school kids lugging around huge books that they were reading for fun. Those kids had caught the reading bug.
So, back to the high school, the very few fiction books on the shelves were 1) very old and 2) deemed to be “good for you.” Bleah.
Get some crime fiction, some romance novels, some Harry Potter in there and get them interested in the wonder that happens when you completely immerse yourself in a book. Once you can get a kid to read, half of the education battle is won.
So, back to Fill the Shelves. These libraries have acknowledged that their collections are pretty sparse, and want to give their students a richer reading choice. Let’s help them do just that.