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The Book Fairy Pantry Project: An Interview with Founder, Pam Leo

| Early Childhood Literacy, Reading Aloud, Early Literacy, Help Your Child Get Ready to Read, Community Partners, Family Literacy

Recently, Raising Readers staff sat down with Pam Leo, the creator of the Book Fairy Pantry Project. We’re excited to share what we learned with you and how this awesome project came to be.

The Book Fairy Pantry Project is a grassroots family literacy movement based in Maine. Volunteer book fairy helpers will collect new and gently used, quality children’s books from donation boxes and book drives and deliver them to participating food pantries and WIC offices to be given out to parents.

What inspired you to start the Book Fairy Pantry Project?

In 2016, I wrote the poem “Please Read to Me – a child’s plea for love and literacy.” That poem was a gift.  I don’t normally even write poetry.

I began to Google family literacy programs to see who was supposed to receive this gift and came across some startling statistics:

  • One in four children in the U.S. does not learn to read.
  • 2/3 of the 15.5 million impoverished children in the U.S. do not have a single book to call their own.There is one children’s book for every three hundred children in low income neighborhoods.
  • 2/3 of the children who are not reading on grade level by 4th grade will end up in prison or on welfare.
  • The number one indicator that children will arrive at kindergarten ready to learn to read is growing up in a home with lots of books and being read to daily from birth.

A few days later I heard on the news that local food pantries were gearing up for a food drive. Suddenly it came to me: collect donated books and donated food and give those books out at the food pantries so all parents can have books to read to their young children.  In turn, all children will be ready to learn to read.

How does the project work?

Each participating food pantry, or WIC office, will receive donated new and gently used, quality children’s books from their local community. Book donation boxes are placed in local schools, day cares, churches, and libraries. Book Fairy helper volunteers will collect those books and deliver them to their food pantry where volunteers of all ages will sort, clean, and shelve the books . Parents can pick out a book for their children when they visit the pantry to get food. Book Fairy Pantry Project

Another way to get donated books will be book drives. By partnering with food drives, we can get double benefit for everyone’s efforts.  There is no shortage of gently used children’s books, only a lack of the redistribution of them.

What are your goals?

That ALL parents have books to read aloud to their children. I would love to see the Book Fairy Pantry Project go statewide to every food pantry here in Maine.

Then, “as Maine goes” so goes the project, nationwide, then worldwide. And the 10 million children living in poverty in this country, who currently do not have one book to call their own, will receive food pantry books and not arrive at school needing to recover from a lack of books.

How can Mainers help?

This project provides many opportunities for volunteers of all ages and gives children a chance to help other children by donating their outgrown or already read books.

My hope for this project is that the “right” people — those who feel as passionately as I do that learning to read is a human right — will hear of the project and use whatever influence they have in the world to help the book fairy and me to “make it so.”

Find out how to start a Book Fairy Pantry Project in your area.

Additional Resources

Read Aloud 15 MINUTES National Campaign