lady-liberty-bookAs we dive headlong into the holidays, and as we near Giving Tuesday (November 29), many of us are looking at year-end donations and considering which organizations to support. In the wake of this month’s elections, a number of groups are seeing unprecedented donations, which is great news. These national organizations are always in need of additional support and new friends who can help grow their coffers.

Now is also the time when local organizations need support from their communities. Many cities, suburbs, and exurbs are home to groups large and small which do what they can to help their neighbors. From the Alaska Community Foundation in Anchorage, which “cultivates, celebrates and sustains all forms of philanthropy to strengthen Alaska’s communities” to the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, which facilitates, promotes, and serves philanthropy and permanent endowments in order to enhance the quality of life in its five-county region in Michigan to David’s House, which provides a home-away-from-home and support for families with children receiving treatment through the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, myriad organizations in small towns and large count on support from generous neighbors.

So many different organizations working to lift up people. So many different causes, so many different needs. The world faces so many ills that it can be difficult to choose from the many organizations that are in need of donations and volunteers. One of the greatest issues we face, here in the United States and around the globe, is poverty.

maya-angelou-quoteThe nonpartisan group POVERTIES notes that “[p]overty undermines the economy by upsetting the normal growth of human capital (education, professional experience, health) which is in theory the main driver of economic growth. This means that poverty will both affect and thrive on people’s lack of education, professional experience and health.”

Among those who suffer the most from poverty is children. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, “[a]bout 15 million children in the United States—21% of all children—live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold.” To make matters worse, children growing up in poverty tend to do worse in school, which puts them at a disadvantage throughout the rest of their life, leading to low graduation rates and high unemployment rates.

In fact, according to ChildTrends, a nonprofit research organization focused exclusively on improving the lives and prospects of children, youth, and their families, “[y]oung children living in poverty are less likely to be read to by a family member every day than are children living at or above the poverty line. In 2007 (the latest data available), 40 percent of poor 3- to 5-year-olds were read to every day, compared with 50 percent of children in families at 100-199% of poverty, and 64 percent of children in families at 200% of poverty and above.”

The National Education Association adds that “[c]hildren in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read to aloud everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above poverty.”

1543931-mary-ellen-chase-quote-there-is-no-substitute-for-books-in-theChildren <—> poverty <—> education <—> economy … it’s all connected. Children living in poverty could use a lift up. Access to better education would be a good start, but it’s not exactly something an individual can tackle single-handedly. But that doesn’t mean that individuals can’t do anything.

So, with that, I propose an initiative to help children in poverty get a leg up on reading, which will help them become better students and set them on a path toward a brighter future: Books & Blankets.

With Books & Blankets, I encourage you to donate a new book and a new blanket (or several!) to a local organization in your community that works to help children. Picture a child in need snuggling under a brand-new warm blanket on a cold wintry night reading a brand-new book. What might that do for that child? What dreams might it prompt? What sparks of imagination might it ignite?

In my dream world, Books & Blankets would become a thing, stretching far and wide across the country, bringing joy to children who could use a lift up. In my dream world, organizations from Baltimore to Detroit to Indianapolis to Milwaukee to Fresno would find themselves inundated with donations of brand-new books and brand-new blankets, enough to fill the minds and warm the hearts of thousands of children.

Where to start? Who needs donations?
Here are a few ideas* of organizations serving children and low-income families that welcome in-kind donations

Scores of organizations are in need of donations. This year, consider sharing a new book and a new blanket to help a child in need. Let’s lift up kids by warming their hearts and kids_booksminds.

Books & Blankets
Will you join me?



*this is just a list, not an endorsement of any organization. When donating, please visit the organization’s website to check out whether it’s a good match for you.