Story by Lawson Martin. Photos provided by Little Hands Book Bank.
A nonprofit in Plano is helping make sure all children fall in love with reading at a young age.
Little Hands Book Bank is an organization that takes books that have been gently loved and donated from people in the North Texas community and gives them to children and families who may not have books at home.
Founder Jennifer Little is an avid reader and grew up passionate about reading and writing. Her son inspired her to start Little Hands Book Bank. She said he had so many books they would read together during storytime as a baby and then as a toddler. As he got older, he grew out of many of the books he had loved when he was younger. Jennifer noticed many of his books were still in great shape and wondered what she could do with them. She turned to the internet to find somewhere in the Dallas area to donate her son’s books so they could go to other children, but she couldn’t find many places.
Jennifer came across The Children’s Book Bank, an organization in Portland, Oregon, that would accept gently used and new books cleaned and sorted by volunteers and then distribute them to children in their community.
Jennifer kept thinking about The Children’s Book Bank. She read statistics where she learned that many disadvantaged children don’t have access to books, and when they go to kindergarten, they’re at an academic disadvantage compared to their peers who read books with their loved ones before school.
A statistic that stuck out to her is that, on average, children in historically underinvested communities have zero to two age-appropriate books in their homes.
She also read that 61 percent of low-income families have no books at all for children in the home.
After reading these statistics, Jennifer thought, “There’s a need here.”
“It really just started as a passion project of, ‘How could we do this? Could we collect books?’” Jennifer says. “So I started collecting books in my house. They were in my garage and spilling into one of my rooms.”
Jennifer founded Little Hands Book Bank in 2012 to allow all children to experience the joy of reading.
“We believe the joy of reading is the foundation of lifelong learning,” a quote on Little Hands’ website reads.
Jennifer began collecting books from people in the community and storing them at her home for years until Little Hands Book Bank took off. They then moved into office space to continue collecting books. The more people who heard about it, the more donations poured in.
All new and gently-used books are cleaned and sorted into starter libraries. These are given to preschool children (infants to pre-kindergarten) from lower-income families through local partner organizations. Children will receive ten books to read and share with family members in the starter library bags.
Several organizations and businesses have held book drives for Little Hands Book Bank in the past.
“We have had so many companies and organizations in the community do book drives for us. Anywhere from schools, church groups, mom groups, and daycares,” Jennifer says. “We have probably five schools in the area that do book drives every year for us, which is really great.”
One of their largest donation drop-offs was to Head Start in Plano. According to Jennifer, her organization gave them hundreds of bags of books, totaling nearly 2,000 books.
Jennifer says she’s so happy to be able to share her love of reading with others, especially with those who may not have the money or resources to buy books.
“When you think about books for some families, they’re a luxury. There are a lot more important things to focus on, whether that’s paying for their house, electricity, food, and books are not a priority,” Jennifer says
That thought makes donating all the more rewarding, according to Jennifer, because there are people in North Texas who have been donating thousands of books to families in need through Little Hands Book Bank.
Another advantage of founding Little Hands Book Bank is that Jennifer has taught her son the value of giving back at a young age.
“He didn’t quite understand it,” Jennifer shares. “For his birthday parties, I’d tell his friends, ‘Don’t bring presents, just books.’ And he was like, ‘Why do I always get these books for my birthday?’”
When her son grew older, she took him to one of the delivery drop-offs at Head Start in Plano, where he got to experience handing out bags of books to children.
“We read a story to the kids. He handed out the bags, and just the emotion from that and the kids saying things like, ‘Wait! We get to keep these books at home?’ and we told them, ‘They’re your books forever!’” Jennifer says. “The joy of seeing the kids receiving that bag of books, he walked away, and it clicked for him.”
Little Hands Book Bank organizers are constantly looking for organizations or families in need in the Dallas area to donate books for children ages 0-5. Any organization that believes it would benefit from boxes or starter libraries of new and gently-used books is encouraged to reach out to the nonprofit. Anyone looking to volunteer or host book drives are welcome to get in touch as well.
To learn more about how you can be involved with Little Hands Book Bank, click here to visit their website.