It helps to think back to how things began.

Like the excitement of falling in love, moving to a new place, starting a new job – remembering how things started often keeps us going. We push through the hard times, we find reasons to work even harder, we build on strong foundations.

zizee_SeedlingFour-and-a-half years ago, the kernel of an idea was planted in Books for Keeps founder Melaney Smith’s brain. It took root, and through friends, community support, and a lot of hard work, that seed sprang forth into something remarkable.

And it grew. And it keeps growing. In 2014, Books for Keeps will distribute 45,000 books to 3,700 children at nine schools.

But this is how it all began. We’re sharing with you Melaney’s first-ever blog post, from our (recently-retired) Blogspot blog. It’s titled “How to Help a 2nd Grader,” and it’s the simple appeal for help that launched a grassroots movement that would, two years later, go on to provide nearly 80,000 books to children who might otherwise have none.

Help us keep growing to reach more children. Help us reach our goal of 45,000 books by Dec. 31. Sponsor a childgive a gift in someone’s namehold a book drive… today. (Click any of the underlined links to learn more.)


But first, enjoy:

I need some serious help in the brain-power department right now. I have about 3 weeks to handle a problem that is keeping me awake at night. Here’s the story:

My niece mentors a 2nd grade girl who attends one of Athens’ public schools. Let’s call her Jane. Jane loves to read, but has no books at home. Jane loves to color, but has no crayons at home.

Jane has a good friend in class, let’s call him Bob. Bob is soooo jealous that MK bought Jane a book and some art supplies. Turns out Bob has no books or art supplies at home either.

MK spoke to the teacher, and learned this isn’t really unusual. Some parents can’t afford anything for the kids, some are working multiple jobs and have no time, and the library isn’t always an option. When I heard this I thought “why doesn’t somebody DO something about this?”

Ummm… maybe I am the somebody who should do something. I thought very hard about it, and I just can’t let these kids who love to read go home to a summer with no books.

Turns out that the mentoring program doesn’t allow a single student to be given a lot of free stuff; just a few things kept at school. So I am attempting to adopt the entire 2nd grade class, and give them a “summer satchel” with books and art supplies for the summer. The satchel itself will probably be a grocery bag, but it’s what’s in the bag that’s important.

And that’s where I need your help. (No, not your money. Just your ideas.) I’m putting up my own money to do this. But I have no kids of my own so I have no idea what kids like to read, or whether they’d prefer magic markers to crayons.

So please, if you can spend 5 minutes thinking about it, let me know if you can answer any of these questions.

  • Are there organizations out there already who help kids with books or art supplies?
  • Can you recommend any specific book titles that are good for 2nd graders?
  • Which is better: crayons or magic markers?
  • Which is better: coloring books or blank paper?
  • Any ideas what else should be in the bag?
  • Are there any good sources for cheap books? Cheap art supplies?

You can also contact me at

I look forward to hearing from you, and to making a difference in a few kids’ lives this summer.