A map showing the reading habits of 10 countries. For comparison, number of books published per capita in Europe.
Over the past ten years, an organization called PJ Library Has distributed more than ten million free children's books and music with Jewish content directly to children ages 0 to 8 across the United States. The program is modeled on Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Not always without controversy, books contain information about Jewish-American culture, Israel, general values, Jewish holidays, and even occasionally mysticism. In 2014 PJL announced a new program to distribute books to Arab-Israeli preschoolers. Sign up here.
A day in the life of New York City's public libraries: Traveling from borough to borough, this short documentary by Julie Dressner and Jesse Hicks reveals just how important the modern library is for millions of people. Why Libraries Matter.
Cozy Classics are board book versions of classic novels, each story represented by 12 child-friendly words and 12 needle-felted illustrations, with the idea of developing "early literacy"—everything children know about reading and writing before they can actually do either. Current titles include Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, Les Miserables, and War and Peace, with Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist forthcoming. [more inside]
The Secret Lives of Readers Books reveal themselves. Whether they exist as print or pixels, they can be read and examined and made to spill their secrets. Readers are far more elusive. They leave traces—a note in the margin, a stain on the binding—but those hints of human handling tell us only so much. The experience of reading vanishes with the reader. How do we recover the reading experiences of the past? Lately scholars have stepped up the hunt for evidence of how people over time have interacted with books, newspapers, and other printed material.
California rejects top rate tax increase, removes all state funding for CA libraries. Funding cut for "literacy programs, InterLibrary Loans, and miscellaneous expenses such as librarian training programs and books." Library Journal goes into more of the technicalities.
After visiting Nepal in 1998, John Wood left Microsoft to try something different. His organization Room to Read now has created 12,000+ libraries around the world, and given away 10 million books.
There is Housing Works in NYC, which raises money for community based AIDS/HIV treatment and housing for the homeless. Here in Chicago we have Open Books, who uses the money raised from selling donated books to run literacy programs and tutoring programs for children. Now Minneapolis is getting Boneshaker Books; an all volunteer run radical bookstore that will house the Women's Prison Book Project and offer bike book delivery.
Are people reading less? Government survey says: yes. Declines in how much and how well people read “are adversely affecting this country's culture, economy, and civic life as well as our children's educational achievement.” Also the cause of poor test scores. Steve Jobs agrees: Kindle DOA because nobody reads books anymore. WaPo says 1 in 4 persons read no books in 2006. And children didn't keep reading after they got through Harry Potter, either. So literacy's in a long slow decline.
But wait. [more inside]
But wait. [more inside]
Better World Books - Recently recognized by Fast Company as one of the best for-profit social enterprises of 2008, they offer a wide selection of new and used books with free shipping in the US and less than $3 shipping elsewhere. A portion of the profits go to fund literacy organizations such as Room to Read and WorldFund, and their shipping is carbon-neutral. The only thing missing is the ability to import Amazon wishlists.
The man who brought us The Paper Bag Princess and Love You Forever, Robert Munsch is Canada's best-selling author and, though originally from Pittsburgh, a Member of the Order of Canada. His website contains descriptions of his books and mp3s of his entertaining readings of them as well as stories written collaboratively with kids he meets on his reading tours. A former Jesuit-priest-in training, he will once again act as Honorary Celebrity Chair for ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation's 2005 Family Literacy Day. The CBC aired a documentary about his life on November 7, 2000 (video excerpt [.ram]). See also: many lesson plans for teachers using his books.