J.B. Blackford

Refine. Hone. Distill. The self is a text, too.

Literacy: A Christmas Miracle?

When I was growing up, and still to this today, every kid in my family got a “Christmas book.” It now extends to sons- and daughters-in law, nephews, nieces, and grandchildren. It’s gone on for so long that I can read my childhood Christmas books to my nephews, and every year my mom and I have long conversations deciding which book is best for each everyone involved. 


Books are a tradition in my family, and — as I’ve made abundantly clear — I believe that reading to children and encouraging them to read is vital on many levels of development. So, in that vein, part of the Christmas book tradition has extended to include donations to reading-related organizations, and this year, I think I’ll be going with United Through Reading, a 501(c)(3) that records videos of deployed military personnel reading for the children in their lives; the children’s reactions to the videos are recorded and then sent back overseas to their loved one. 

UTR’s goal is to foster a love of reading while also, for a time, reducing the impact of the physical distance imposed by a deployment. As the wife of a soldier who will be spending this Christmas with my husband after seeing him via grainy Skype video from Afghanistan last year, I can attest to the necessity of this type of connection for a family separated by war. Being read to by an adult should be an irrevocable childhood experience, rather than a luxury, so for Christmas 2012, I’ll be supporting two things that are close to my heart: childhood literacy and military families. 

If you’re a reader, writer, bibliophile, book-hoarder, or just a philanthropically hearted person, there are a multitude of organizations out there supporting the joy of reading in our country and abroad:

Goodreads has a list of 12 organizations that change lives with reading, ranging from groups that actively donate books to communities in need, to organizations like Reach Out and Read, which promotes the importance of a parent-child reading relationship through the child’s pediatrician or other medical professional.

Donors Choose, which I’ve talked about before, allows you to bless not just one child with Christmas generosity, but an entire class. There are a plethora of projects in schools across the country, spanning all major subjects, but if you’re looking to promote literacy, you have countless options to contribute to projects requesting books or listening libraries. 

Discover Books, while remaining a for-profit organization, is committed to encouraging reading and sustainability by accepting used book donations which they redistribute to literacy- and community-based organizations in need. They also support libraries by helping them develop new revenue streams and better inventory management, and any books which end up without a home are recycled to promote environmental sustainability. At this time of year, if pennies are tight and you don’t have extra cash to donate, try culling your library collection to keep the cycle going! If there isn’t a collection box in your area, you can request one here.

Raising a Reader works directly with families to cultivate an understanding of how important reading is both for a child’s success and healthy, communicative relationships. The stages of their program help parents build a reading routine, encourage children to practice reading, and sustain these habits by introducing families to their local libraries. You can donate directly to their cause, help initiate a new program, or shop for merchandise online.

If none of these organizations pique your interest, check out this list of even more literacy-based programs compiled by Reading Rockets.

And last, but not least, is Out of Print, a company dedicated to celebrating art, reading, and fashion. Although it may be too late to order a tshirt or journal in time for Christmas, don’t despair! Even after the 25th, you’ll still be giving the gift of reading, since each item purchased from their site also donates a book to a community in need. The problem I run into on this site is refraining from buying everything that I want, including the Madeleine L’Engle A Wrinkle in Time tshirt or the Brave New World fleece.

Are there are any holiday book-giving or reading traditions in your family? Do you know of other literacy-based organizations deserving of attention that didn’t make this list? Leave a comment and tell me all about it!


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This entry was posted on December 22, 2012 by in Reading, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .
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