12 January 2012

Spending time with new granddaughter this week. Everyone is into hugs and tickles. The women in this house have oxytocin running through their little blue veins.

Oxytocin is sometimes called “the cuddle hormone.” This drug is reputed to make women especially affectionate with babies.

This explains a lot, at least to me.

In the United Kingdom, McDonalds has temporarily begun providing books instead of toys with Happy Meals. On February 7 Happy Meals revert to the usual plastic toy delivery system along with the burgers, fries and chicken nuggets.

The books chosen – nine million of them are expected to be given away – are from the Mudpuddle Farm series, written by award-winning author Michael Morpurgo.

Morpurgo is the author of War Horse, a sentimental young adult novel set during World War I, later adapted for the stage and now a major movie by Steven Spielberg.

Each book comes with a finger puppet – a toy. McDonalds simply cannot give up on the toy idea.

Britain’s National Literary Trust is backing the promotion. They say no more than one British child in three owns even a single book. They want to change this.

In the New York Times, author David Bornstein reports on a nonprofit organization named First Book, which he says “is spearheading a new market mechanism that is delivering millions of new, high quality books to low-income children through thousands of nonprofit organizations and... schools.”

One commenter on the article noted, “The quality and diversity of books available from First Book is wonderful. Generally, with a budget of 2 dollars per book, the books that children have access to are poorly written, poorly illustrated, poorly bound, etc. With First Book, a budget of 2 dollars per book gives you hardcover books, award-winners, bilingual books, and more!”

In 2008, First Book launched its marketplace “with the goal of making books systematically available at deeply reduced prices - typically 50 to 90 percent off - to any organization certified tax-exempt and serving children in need,” Bornstein reported.

This scheme has important implications for everyone. If the experience of owning books is key to children’s motivation and learning, First Book is a wonderful thing. Publishers have an additional, dependable place to sell their books, even at deep discounts, encouraging them to keep on producing quality books. 

First Book began as a book “bank” – a means to distribute publisher overstocks to reading programs. 85 million books have been given away in this manner, but in recent times smaller print runs and increased need have shown the shortcomings of this system. First Book added the marketplace to their offerings.

First Book has many allies in the effort to get books into the hands of children. At Mendocino Coast Hospital newborns receive Goodnight Moon in English or Spanish, purchased at discount from local bookstores and donated by the teachers’ organization Delta Kappa Gamma.

In Wisconsin and Minnesota the volunteer group Neighborhood Little Free Libraries builds simple "take a book, leave a book" wooden structures in front yards, by a sidewalk, coffee shop or park. They hold 20-30 books that kids and adults can give and take.

In southern California the organization Access Books collects and donates books to local libraries under the slogan “Give a child a book, she’ll be happy. Give a child a library, she’ll be literate.” Book Ends in Los Angeles has donated over 2 million books to classrooms and youth organizations.

There are many more such organizations, and some are listed in the Notes section of my wordsonbooks blog.

In Mendocino county citizens last fall voted a sales tax increase to permanently fund public libraries. As someone said, we need another Andrew Carnegie to fund a wave of new library construction so we can have as many libraries as Starbucks.

Wouldn’t that be interesting!


David Bornstein in The New York Times on children owning or not owning books

Access Books “With Literary and Access for All”

The Book Thing, where every book in the store is free but your daily take-away is limited to 150,000 books.

The name of our organization is "Look. It's My Book!" That says it all. When people ask where the money comes from, we reply with the simple truth: "people like you and me." The need is enormous, and for the children, the time is now. For fifteen dollars a year, someone can buy a school child 6 books -a small act of kindness that may make a big difference to that child.

The Libri Foundation donates children's books to rural libraries.

Another way to donate, and for free, is through sites like Click to Give. Advertisers pay for your daily click, and people get books.

Behind the Book, a NYC-based literacy organization, donates new books to students as part of a classroom reading promotion program, where we bring in the author of the book to lead several workshops and where the students work with the author to create their own original written work

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