Launched in January of 2017, the Book Rich Environments (BRE) initiative aims to foster life-long, joyful relationships between readers and books in communities nationwide by providing resources that reinforce local efforts to combat lack of literary access, often termed “book deserts.” The national program is a collaboration between the National Book Foundation, which serves as lead partner, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Urban Libraries Council, and the National Center for Families Learning. By the end of 2019, BRE will have provided over one million free books to families living in public housing authorities (PHAs), distributed in partnership with local libraries, community centers, and PHA staff across the U.S.
This unique program works with HUD-assisted communities to strengthen home libraries, facilitate book-distribution events, and provide the information and tools to establish long-term connections between families, literature, and literacy resources.
“We work year-round to make sure that all kinds of readers, all over the country, have the resources and the encouragement to help form meaningful, lasting relationships to literature” said David Steinberger, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “We couldn’t do this work alone, and it’s been amazing to be able to offer our support to the outstanding teams at local libraries and literacy organizations, who work tirelessly to serve their communities.”
With book contribution commitments from seven U.S. book publishers (Candlewick Press, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster), BRE will this year surpass one million free, high-quality, diverse books distributed to children and families in HUD-assisted communities. From Alabama to Colorado to Massachusetts, BRE programming will once again take place in regions across the country. Three new sites, in Louisville, Kentucky, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Portland, Oregon, will be joining for the first time, bringing the number of local partnerships up to 39 sites in 22 states.
“When we launched the Book Rich Environments program, we had this big dream of giving away a million brand-new, great books, which at the time felt like this enormous, daunting goal,” said Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “With the help of our incredible partners, we have been astonished at what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past three years. One million books is just the beginning for us.”
Each local public housing authority partner pledges to hold at least three book-distribution events at which the publisher-donated titles make their way into the hands of children and families. These events are held at public housing buildings and community centers, with local library branches facilitating giveaways, coordinating library card signups, and sharing information on literacy resources available to families. Past events have included building a pop-up library in administrative offices, hosting holiday events that couple festivities with book distributions, and even PHA staff visiting residents door to door to pass out titles.
Books available at BRE book-distribution events include both English and Spanish language titles for readers ages 0-18. Titles by beloved children’s and YA authors such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Margaret Wise Brown, Eric Carle, Roald Dahl, Matt de la Peña, and R. J. Palacio will be distributed, as well as titles by National Book Awards–honored authors like Christopher Paul Curtis, Kate Milford, Angie Thomas, Louis Sachar, and Maurice Sendak.
With a focus on providing free books, programming, and vital connections to local resources, BRE seeks to make long-lasting impact within PHAs, helping to create sustainable book rich environments where literature is accessible and celebrated within the community. All participating BRE cities and counties can be found below.
Phenix City, AL
Contra Costa County, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Marin County, CA
San Diego, CA
San Joaquin County, CA
San Mateo County, CA
Stanislaus County, CA
Fort Wayne, IN
New Bedford, MA
Anishinaabe Reservations, MN
Kansas City, MO
New York, NY
San Antonio, TX