National Book Foundation Commits to Helping Transform public housing Communities from “Book deserts” to book rich Environments

Over a quarter of a million book donations have been secured.

Lisa Lucas at announcement of Book Rich Environments Image from Urban Library Council's Twitter Feed

As part of its continued effort to expand nationwide programming and build readers across the country and to support its mission of enhancing the cultural value of great writing in America, the National Book Foundation has partnered with the U.S. Department of Education (ED), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) and the Campaign for Grade Level Reading (CGLR) to launch the Book Rich Environment Initiative (BRE).  The National Book Foundation worked with publishers to secure book donations for the project and Penguin Random House, the world’s largest trade book publisher, is taking the lead, providing 200,000 books towards the initiative, in furtherance of its mission to nourish a universal passion for reading. Hachette Book Group and Macmillan Publishers have also committed to substantial donations.

“The National Book Foundation is committed to making sure all people, especially young people who are building their identity as readers, have access to books,” says Board Chairman David Steinberger. “By collaborating with these key national partners, we are able to build the Foundation’s reach and further our mission of making sure that books matter, and that they matter everywhere.”

“To date, the National Book Foundation has given away over 30,000 books to young people through BookUp, our free afterschool reading program,” notes Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “Through the Book Rich Environment Initiative, we will expand that to over 300,000 books by the end of 2017.”

NBF is working in partnership with the publishing community to create a collection of book donations for readers across ages/grade levels, with titles that are representative of the diversity of the individual communities participating in the project. Beyond the initial donation, the Foundation will work to secure book donations from additional publishers, support local libraries as they implement accompanying community programming, and help connect communities with authors.

The BRE Initiative will unfold over the course of 2017, and aims to transform Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) into book rich environments by bringing diverse, high quality books and other literacy tools into the hands of the 4 million children and their families living in HUD-assisted housing. Over thirty PHAs and local library partners across the country have committed to participation in the BRE Initiative, which will center around three main program components:

Book Distribution—Free, high quality, diverse books provided to children and families living in HUD-assisted housing. Book distribution will launch in March 2017 and include three local distribution events in each participating community throughout the year.

Partnership building—Strategic partnerships established between the local PHA, the local public library, and literacy partners to develop and deliver ongoing programming that will improve the educational outcomes of PHA residents.

Library engagement—Children and families engaged in the love of reading and ongoing literacy activities offered by the local library and literacy partners.

A public launch event took place on January 5, 2017 at the Southwest Neighborhood Library in Washington DC, and included remarks from all partners and stakeholders including: