Books for Keeps blog

Meet board member Kathy Poss!

The following is a guest blog post by board member Kathy Poss, and part of our monthly board member spotlight series. Kathy is a retired school nurse and Elbert County resident, and the mother of two educators in area counties. As someone who hails from a family of educators for whom books have played a central role, she believes heartily in the importance of Books for Keeps.

One day a few years ago my friend Joan Prittie asked me to lunch. She told me about Books for Keeps and how it was expanding to Elbert County. I later joined the Board.

What a great opportunity to encourage and improve reading skills in children. I have always enjoyed books but realize not all kids have access. Call of the Wild and White Fang fascinated me as a young reader. Biographies were favorites. Clara Barton, Florence Nightengale, George Washington Carver were a few summer books.

I can’t pinpoint a pivotal book in my youth but I vividly remember reading The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls. The Razor’s Edge was in the headboard at my grandmother’s house, so I read it.  This summer I am reading John Adams and probably some historical selections. Though I can’t do it all, I adore DIY books.

My grandmother finished high school at 16 and became a one-room school teacher in a very rural area.  Some of her children were named for book characters. This was evidence of her love for reading.

My mother loved poetry and tried her hand at writing poetry.  The thing that reading did for my family was widen a world that had physical boundaries into a broad rich world of idea.

In a very small town we [...]

Intern with Books for Keeps this fall

Books for Keeps is seeking fall interns in three main content areas. We’ve got several special projects we are working on, and we are looking for current students – undergraduates or graduates – to help carry them out.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and individuals with spring availability are preferred but not required. To see what we’re looking for, check out each of the descriptions below. To apply, please send resume and cover letter to the email address of the corresponding intern supervisor –

BFK Grants and Research Intern posting – Fall 2019
BFK Project Management Intern – Fall 2019
BFK Web Design and Development Intern – Fall 2019

Leslie Hale –

Justin Bray –

Meet Board Member Stephen Nobles!

The following is a guest blog post by board member Stephen Nobles, and part of our monthly board member spotlight series. Stephen joined the Books for Keeps board in January of this year, and by day, he serves as program registrar and data specialist with the Clarke County School District.


Books for Keeps for me has been a dream come true. Not a personal dream for me today at my current age – but a dream that I had as a child who had a love for reading and a true belief in the power of books. I WISH when I was a child something like Books for Keeps existed!! I knew very little about the organization but was immediately intrigued when I learned about their mission, goals, and the work they had been doing for children throughout the state of Georgia!
I know first hand the benefits that come along with a love for reading. Those benefits go so far beyond the words in the books. My mother was a huge advocate for literacy and literature and she instilled those same core values in me.

I have read to more than 1,000 students throughout the state of Georgia for my “LIT About Literacy” Program, and after meeting Leslie (Hale, executive director) and being introduced to the other amazing and passionate board members it was a no-brainer for me to align myself with Books for Keeps. To me it was a win-win!

I can remember the joy that came with finishing a book cover to cover. I can remember the first time I read Homer’s, “The Odyssey” and being instantly thrown into an amazing world of Sirens, cyclops, and the travels of Odysseus! I see that same [...]

By |June 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet Board Member Stephen Nobles!|

“I would cry if I didn’t have books. I love to read.” ~3rd-grade Books for Keeps participant

Sometimes we’re at a loss for words here at Books for Keeps. If you’ve met any of our three staff or our dozen-plus board members, you are probably laughing right now. Real hard.

It’s true, though. Sitting down to write this post, it was hard to figure out where to start – what to focus on. There was simply so much good to go around this year at book distributions that it’s hard to wrap our brains around – from giving away our 500,000th book (and way, way beyond) to celebrating 10 years to gathering new insights into our students reading habits.

We served the same number of students as last year (nearly 8,000) and gave away the same number of books (roughly 95,000), yet this year felt big in so many ways.

So, where to start in describing it?

This is where we fall back to those wiser and more eloquent than us: the children we serve.

Among our core values and core behaviors: (1) focusing on stakeholders as individuals and (2) creating joyful opportunities for children to become owners of books. They are our future voters and decision-makers. It really is all about them because – one day – the world will be in their hands.

“I’m so excited I could explode,” one fifth-grader told a volunteer at Whit Davis Elementary School. This, in response to a simple survey question asking about her level of excitement over her books.

For the first time this year, we sought to gather more information from our student participants – right at the moment when they chose their books. What are we hoping to learn?

How motivated are they to read their books?
How many of their 12 books do they expect [...]

By |May 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on “I would cry if I didn’t have books. I love to read.” ~3rd-grade Books for Keeps participant|

Meet board member, Leigh Dillard!

(part of a new monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

I heard Melaney speak at the TEDxUGA event in 2016, and I immediately knew Books for Keeps was something I wanted to be involved in. Melaney’s message of thinking small — rather than being intimidated into inaction by a big task — resonated with me, and the notion of giving books to kids was equally compelling. As a professor of English and advisor of Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society at UNG, I also knew that this would be a great project to pass along to my students.

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

I did my first book distribution at Oglethorpe Elementary in May 2016 and have volunteered in various facets of the process since then. I’ve also worked in the warehouse and with the book sale (and have been an enthusiastic book sale customer). I enjoy seeing how the parts function to serve the bigger mission of BFK.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

I was ready to increase my commitment to Books for Keeps and thought that serving on the board would be a good way to do that. The timing was right.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps? (This can be a direct interaction or something you observed.) If so, tell us about it.

Book distributions are magical. Last year, after helping one student at Stroud Elementary School count his books, he jumped up and gave me a hug. It was this wonderful, joy-filled moment that really stuck with me. The work of the volunteers is such a small part [...]

By |April 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member, Leigh Dillard!|

Meet board member, Jennifer Welborn!

(part of a new monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

Fenwick Broyard. Shortly after moving to Athens, I started volunteering at Community Connection of Northeast Georgia. Fenwick suggested I check out BFK. He thought they had a position open. I’m not sure if they did but I researched the organization, fell in love and started volunteering in the warehouse and eventually at the book sale. This lead to being on the Development Committee and subsequent ad-hoc committees which led to the Board of Directors!

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

Volunteering in the warehouse since November 2015. Book sale and Development Committee since 2017 and on the board since January 2018.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

Why would I not?! It’s such an amazing organization! Reading and education were always important growing up. Reading opens up windows of opportunities and without it your options are limited. I have worked in the human services profession and provided direct service to individuals who cannot read or struggle with reading. I have seen the effects of what happens when we do not take the time to teach children to read. It has lasting effects.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps? (This can be a direct interaction or something you observed.) If so, tell us about it.

At last years book distribution, a student picked out twelve of the heaviest books. It was so heavy it trailed behind her. The bag had to weigh more than the student. In general, just seeing the smiles on kids faces. They light up like a Christmas tree! It’s the best [...]

By |March 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member, Jennifer Welborn!|

2019 distributions sign-ups are live!

2019 Book Distribution sign-ups are officially live!  With your help, we’ll once more be giving away nearly 95,000 books to children at 18 schools in Athens, Atlanta, Warrenton, and Elberton. This is your chance to experience the joy of helping students in your community pick out 12 free books for summer – for keeps!

If you are part of a group (8 to 15 people) that would like to adopt and work an entire shift at a particular school, let us know now so that we can coordinate with you to reserve a shift. Email Program Manager
Justin Bray at

To sign up for a shift, simply click the name of the school and you’ll be taken to the GivePulse signup page for that school.

April 9-11, 2019: Elbert County Elementary School- Elberton, GA
– April 9th morning shift, 9:00am – 11:15am;  afternoon shift, 12:00pm – 2:30pm
– April 10th morning shift, 8:30am – 11:00am; afternoon shift, 12:00pm – 2:30pm
– April 11th morning shift, 9:00am – 11:30am; afternoon shift, 12:00pm – 3:00pm

April 18-19, 2019: Dunbar Elementary School- Atlanta, GA
– April 18th morning shift, 8:00am – 11:00am;  afternoon shift, 12:00pm – 2:30pm
– April 19th shift, 9:00am – 12:00pm

April 23-24, 2019: Fowler Drive Elementary School- Athens, GA
– April 23rd morning shift, 8:00am – 11:00am;  afternoon shift, 11:45am – 2:30pm
– April 24th shift, 10:30am – 1:30pm

April 24, 2019: Downtown Academy- Athens, GA
– April 24th shift, 12:35pm – 3:15pm

April 25, 2019: Benteen Elementary School- Atlanta, GA
– April 25th morning shift, 8:00am – 10:00am; midday shift, 10:00am – 12:00pm; afternoon shift, 12:15pm – 2:15pm

April 26 & 29, 2019: Gaines Elementary School- Athens, GA
– April 26th morning shift, 8:00am – 11:30am;  afternoon shift, 12:15pm – 2:30pm
– April 29th morning shift, 8:00am – 11:30am; afternoon shift, 12:00pm – 2:35pm

April 29-30, 2019: Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School- Athens, GA
– April 29th morning [...]

By |March 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on 2019 distributions sign-ups are live!|

We’re kicking off spring 2019 with Book Drive Month!

It’s our favorite way to kick off the spring- with Book Drive Month. Every spring, we kick up our community outreach and prepare for our annual book sale by invited community partners and new friends to host a book drive to benefit Books for Keeps. Book drives are our favorite way to share our passion with brand new community members!

This spring, we have another amazing group of book drive participants:

TSAV (kicked off last month, and still going!)
Fleet Feet Athens (kicked off last month, and still going!)
Wild Moon Studio
The Rook & Pawn
Piedmont Athens Regional (hosted by the Cardiology Dept.)
Em’s Kitchen
UGA Office of Service-Learning
Sorella Hair Studio
Sigma Tau Delta at UNG
Leon Farmer & Company
Oconee Street UMC
Synovus Bank of Watkinsville (Greensboro Hwy location)
Arbor Salon & Spa
Dove Creek Elementary School
Book Warehouse of Atlanta
Ashley Garrett (neighborhood-wide drive)
Classic City Orthodontics
Book Warehouse Locust Grove

In addition to these 18 book drives happening in March, our friends at Cotton Patch Quilters will be hosting a drive this summer in conjunction with First Presbyterian Church of Athens. This is an annual drive hosted by CPQ that last year gathered CARLOADS of books!!

We are thrilled to have such an incredible level of book drive participation in Athens and surrounding communities. And best of all, MANY of these businesses and organizations are first-time participants. That is a lot of new faces that will be learning about our program through these partners, and we are more grateful for that than we can say!

If you pop into one of these businesses or work with one of [...]

By |March 1st, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on We’re kicking off spring 2019 with Book Drive Month!|

Meet board member, Patty Booth!

(part of a new monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

Board member Camilla Bracewell contacted me when the Development Committee was looking for fundraising ideas, and another board member, Joyce Waller, brought up bunco as an idea. They knew that I had organized bunco events before for Piedmont Athens Regional Hosital, so they asked me if I would like to help. I said “sure,” and my involvement started there!

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

I started volunteering with bunco planning in October of 2017 for the January 2018 Bunco for Books event, and I officially joined the Development Committee soon after.  I then joined the BFK board in January of this year.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

Camilla indicated that Books for Keeps was looking to grow their board and asked me if I would be interested- and I said yes. I had retired the fall before, and I knew that I wanted to up my involvement in volunteering. This organization is something that really appeals to me because of my love of reading and because it really speaks to my background as a manager. Helping students be better and have bigger futures directly impacts our future workforce, as well as their lives.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps? (This can be a direct interaction or something you observed.) If so, tell us about it.

My only opportunity to work with students so far was volunteering at the Athens Farmer’s Market last year, and it was great having the parents and kids come by our booth and talk about knowing about Books for [...]

By |February 13th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member, Patty Booth!|

Meet board member, Marne Matthews!

(part of a new monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

I first learned about Books for Keeps from a former Board Member, Joe Hill, who suggested I volunteer during Book Distribution.  I was immediately sold!  I loved seeing the excitement of the kids who were getting books.  It was like we were giving away candy, but we were giving them books!

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

I am a huge advocate of early childhood reading and truly believe teaching kids to read – and to love books – at an early age sets them up for the rest of their lives.   Books for Keeps does just that.  By letting children who may not have access to books choose books based on their interests, I believe it teaches them to enjoy reading.  It is important to separate required reading in schools from reading for pleasure.

Have you worked with other non-profits in the past? Which ones?  

I have been involved with many non profit organizations in Athens.  My primary focus has been United Way of NE Georgia where I volunteered over 25 years and served a Chairman of the Board for three years.  Before that, I served in several roles including Campaign Chair  and Womens Leadership Chair.  I am a huge supporter of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program managed by United Way in Athens that also supports early childhood reading.  I believe the DPIL progrtam and Books for Keeps compliment each other and provide all of the kids in Athens Clarke County the reading opportunities they need to be successful  in school and in life.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?  

I retired from Athens First [...]

By |January 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member, Marne Matthews!|