Would you help a reading program for underprivileged kids?

If the answer is “Why, yes, I would,” then this is the thread for you.

Quick note: I checked with the Powers That Be before posting this, to make sure it was copacetic. They said I could, so here we are.

As many of you know, my wife (the lovely and talented Aries28) has volunteered with a literacy program, Better Basics, for the past few years. She goes to an inner-city school in Birmingham, Alabama once a week during the school year and reads to the kids. She also gives them books to read; if they read X number of books and do book reports, they get prizes (books of their own, candy bars, T-shirts, etc.).

Many Dopers in the past have become “Book Fairies” for some of these kids – sending them books on subjects in which the child is interested, small tokens or prizes that are specific to the Doper’s geographic area, stuff like that. The kids have been amazed – not only that someone cares about them, but that someone they never met would care enough to send them a book or a trinket. It’s truly humbling to see the reactions of these children to this outpouring of caring and support. In a few instances, a child has asked my wife to send his or her Book Fairy a small thank-you gift, and handed over a much-worn and -loved Beanie Baby toy from McDonald’s, or a three-inch-tall action figure. These kids have almost nothing – they live in government housing in one of the worst areas in Birmingham, they see drug use and violence on an almost daily basis, and some of them don’t always have enough to eat. For them to want to give back to people who have sent books or prizes has touched me deeply.

Anyway, Aries28 got an e-mail from the administrator of the Better Basics program. They had received a shipment of 8,000 books on Friday, May 6. These books were going to be the “prize” books to begin the 2005-06 school year – books given to children who had reached certain reading goals. Sometime during that weekend, their office was burgled, and all 8,000 books were stolen. Why someone would do this, I dunno. It’s not like you can sell these things for a great profit. The police are investigating, but no arrests have been made yet.

So Better Basics is asking for help in replacing these books. If you would like to donate some children’s books, or would like to make a small monetary donation, please contact Aries28 at aries28kp@hotmail.com. If you want to send money (tax-deductible, even!), she can give you information on how to do that. Every dollar donated will allow Better Basics to purchase two to three books. If you want to send some children’s books (new, used, doesn’t matter), she can tell you the best way to get them to the program.

Thanks in advance to those of you who are willing to help. You’ll be heroes to these kids and the people who are trying to help them.

Email is on its way.

If your lovely and talented wife find out what kind of books they were ( themed, chapter, picture…) let us dopers know!

Stealing books meant for kids.

I’m all over this. Email has been sent.

I’d like to believe that the thieves were a family of voracious readers, people who didn’t have a lot of money and had worn out their library privilages, and so were reduced to stealing books and distributing them to all members of their family.

Alas, I doubt 'tis so.

Email sent. I think I’ll start a collection among my kids…I’m sure they’ll kick in some spare change and lunch money. :smiley:

I should have done this in my first post, and I forgot. My bad.

Here’s the types of books Better Basics tends to use:

Anything featuring minority children
Anything sports related
Any mystery (age-appropriate)
Any joke books
Animal books
Goose Bumps
Arthur Series and Arthur chapter books
Berenstain Bears and BB chapter books
Pokemon series
I Can Read series – 2nd-5th grade levels
Power Puff Girls series
Star Wars series
Rugrats chapter books
Babysitters Little Sister series
Junie B. Jones
Bailey School Kids
Pet Force series
Cam Jansen series
Encyclopedia Brown series
Nate the Great series
Captain Underpants
Magic Tree House series
A to Z Mysteries

Books by:
Matt Christopher
Judy Blume
Amelia Bedelia
Beverly Cleary
Amber Brown
Louis Sacher
Scooby Doo (well, you know; not actually written BY Scooby Doo)
Roald Dahl

Magazines (Sports Illustrated for Kids, American Girl, Highlights, Jack and Jill)

Email sent.
I don’t have kids, but now I know why I picked up a whole bunch of kids books for cheap last week.

Y’know, it might be cool for them to set up an Amazon “wish list” with the books that they’d like - I’m pretty sure you can set it up so that someone can go to the list, buy a few books, and get them sent to you, all without giving out address or other sensitive information.

Do you know if they have any preference between donations of money or books? I know that while they will take both, sometimes organizations find it easier to deal with one over the other.

I’m already in Aries28’s program, but I’ll get some more books together.

Damn, people will “steal anything that’s not red hot or nailed down” as I once heard my aunt say.

To the best of my knowledge, they’ll take either one with equal gratitude.

Athena, good thinking on the Amazon wish list. I’ll check to see if that’s a possibility.

That’s a great idea, but it looks like the money would be better utilized if you sent it directly to the charity instead of getting the book on Amazon. It looks like Better Basics can get 2-3 books per dollar. You’re not going to be able to get 2-3 books for a dollar on Amazon.

Sauron, you and Aries28 are superheroes. Let me see what I can dig up in our basement. :slight_smile:

While this is true, some folks just aren’t comfortable sending money for something like this … there are enough stories about the United Way and other organizations who have wasted money in the past to make some folks donation-shy. Actually sending a book (or books) provides less chance for rip-off.

Now, I have no problems donating money to Better Basics – we’ve done so in the past, and we’ll do it now to help them. But if you’re squeamish about sending money, books that meet their criteria are just as valuable to them.

Nope, not me … she’s the superhero. I’m just the mouthpiece. Think of me as Bruce Wayne’s legal counsel. :slight_smile:

I’ll send some money - that way, they get what I would have spent on postage to mail the books, too! Email will be forthcoming!

Pffffffft, right I bet the Tiny Minions are superheroes, too. :stuck_out_tongue: (It’s the Doper version of “The Incredibles”!)

The Sauron’s are super heroes?

D’ya have capes?


I’m about to send an email.

Also, I imagine that if you got one of the big bookstores in on it, they might be willing to donate some stuff- they get the good-guy-helping-the-needy publicity, Better Basics gets the books. Everybody wins.

I’ll have to check funds but I think UnwrittenNocturne and I could shoot some money that way.

I’m intrigued by the Better Basics program, though–is it Birmingham-only, Sauron, or is it a state-or-nation-wide program? I could think of a few schools here who would benefit greatly, and I don’t know that my schedule (or my gastank) could handle a two-hour roundtrip to Birmingham and back once a week.

[Edna Mold]NO CAPES![/Edna Mold]

monica, the program works with Scholastic to buy books at a discount. Aries28 has also done some stuff on her own with Books-A-Million and one or two publishers whose name I forget right now.

Nocturne, Better Basics is a Birmingham-based charity; however, their Web site (www.betterbasics.org) indicates they have programs in Tuscaloosa city and county schools. (That’s where you are, right? Memory doesn’t always serve me well.) I dunno exactly what programs they operate there; Aries28 volunteers with their M.O.R.E. program.

Also, as info for folks sending money, Better Basics is a 4-star rated charity by Charity Navigator; four stars is the highest rating a charity can receive. So the vast majority of your donation actually goes to buy books, not for administration expenses or anything like that.

And thanks, everyone, for the replies and support. Aries28 has gotten around 20 e-mails so far, with additional pledges being made by phone. You guys are the best. You’re really going to make a difference in a child’s life.