Books for Keeps blog

Giving Tuesday – it doesn’t matter HOW you give, just THAT you give

Donate time, donate treasure, or set up a Facebook fundraiser, and help us raise $20,000 in ONE DAY.
“We’re not participating in Giving Tuesday this year because it’s just gotten too big.”

We see this a lot from fellow nonprofit organizations as the joint holiday / giving season approaches. And we get it.

Giving Tuesday has gotten big. It’s now a global movement with nonprofits and non-governmental organizations participating across 60 countries. It’s a day of focused, almost frenzied generosity, leveraging our very human desire to be part of a group and identify with a common cause.

Here in our corner of the world, Giving Tuesday is big for us. In 2018, Books for Keeps raised $14,300 in just 24 hours on Giving Tuesday (which now coincides with Georgia Gives Day).

This year, we’re setting our sights on raising $10,000 from individuals and businesses on Giving Tuesday, December 3rd, to meet a $10,000 matching challenge from past and present BFK board members. You read that right – our past and current board members will be matching every dollar until we reach our goal of $10,000 on that day. That’s a combined $20,000 toward a REALLY BIG year-end goal to raise $90,000 needed to stay on track for our first program expansion in two years.

As the clamor for donations and contributions on this day of giving has reached fever pitch, though, many folks feel that they’re being hit over the head – repeatedly – by solicitations.

It’s why we’re being careful, selective, and targeted about how (and when) we remind our supporters and followers about Giving Tuesday. We’re scheduling our monthly MailChimp newsletter to hit inboxes on Giving Tuesday this year so that – instead of reminder emails, plus our [...]

Meet board member Jillian Farr!

(part of a monthly series)

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

I am a full-time MBA student at UGA’s Terry College of Business, and I learned about Books for Keeps through my program’s Non-Profit Board Fellows Program. The program connects MBA students with Athens-area non-profits and students serve as nonvoting, ex officio members through the four semesters of the MBA program. I knew immediately after learning about Books for Keeps and its mission that I’d love to be part of the organization. Luckily the Books for Keeps team felt the same way! 😊

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

I have been serving with Books for Keeps since August of 2018 as a board member and as part of the Community Development and Marketing Committees.

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

I come from a family of educators and have been an avid reader since I was very young. I believe reading played a huge part in my early development, and the mission of Books for Keeps is one that I feel incredibly passionate about.

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 my first book distribution this past spring, I had one particular interaction that still makes me tear up (in the best way!) to this day. A kindergartner asked me to help her pick out her books, so we made our way around the different tables in the media center and she chose books she was excited about. When we got to the 12th book, I excitedly let her [...]

But why THAT promise?

For most people, the WHAT is a no-brainer.

Books are easy to get behind. It’s easy to grasp the importance of reading and literacy in building a successful life. Almost everyone who works with us – from staff to donors to volunteers to board members – can point to a way that books (or one single book) transformed their lives.

So, books – and making them easy to get access to – are the easy part for us to sell.

It’s all of the other details that get stickier. The WHY’s.

Why 12 books? (Because the research we founded our program on points to this as the sweet spot for moving literacy skills during summer.)

Why give them away rather than loan them? (Because pride of ownership and removing the fear of losing or damaging a book liberate many children and families to truly embrace this process.)

And then we come to the big question. The question we’ve been driving toward and aligning strategy around for the past five years: 

Why those schools?

Each school we serve is high-need. Every single one. We started out at just a few schools here in Athens that represent the most extreme need: 90 percent or more free/reduced-price lunch. As we grew outside of Athens, we targeted schools in Atlanta and in rural areas with the same characteristics.

And a few years later we set our sights on a big goal: to serve every child attending a Clarke County elementary school.

We’re finally fulfilling that goal this year – reaching every single child in grades K through 5 at all 14 elementary schools in Athens.

We couldn’t be more excited, and we want you to be excited too – here’s WHY.

Our home county has a lot of need. With [...]

By |October 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on But why THAT promise?|

Meet board member Joan Prittie!

(part of a monthly series)

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

Through Vicky Wilkins [friend of founder, Melaney Smith, and early board member] when I was teaching in the MPA program 8-9 years ago, before Leslie was hired. My class helped the board do some planning and also taught the board some fundraising fundamentals to help them obtain the resources needed to hire an executive director.

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

There was this initial work through my class and then a bit of a gap. I have now been on the board of directors for 5 years. I had previously met with Vicky and Melaney before the class project, but board service was the next move.

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

Certainly the experience working with and getting to know Melaney and the early supporters helped me learn the story and get to know the mission. But also a lifelong love of reading instilled by my family played a big part. I want all children to have the gift of that experience [of loving reading] and have access to books.

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.

Yes. I was at a distribution at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, and I was checking in with a couple of little girls after they had made their selection of books.
They lived in the same federally funded housing community, and they had been very strategic in choosing their books. They chose all different books so that they could trade their books [...]

By |October 10th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member Joan Prittie!|

Looking toward spring 2020 – 20 schools and fulfilling big promises!

This is it.

This year and this milestone were a distant goal four years ago when Books for Keeps adopted its first true strategic plan. It was a pipe dream when I was hired six years ago. And when Melaney Smith, our founder, gave away the first books to a group of second-graders at Alps Road Elementary School in 2009, this was but a twinkle in her eye.

So it has been exhilarating to roll out this news with stakeholders over the past several months and to share it here: as of spring 2020, Books for Keeps will be in all 14 Athens-Clarke public elementary schools – serving a total of 20 schools across 4 Georgia counties.

That means if you have a child in Kindergarten through fifth grade at a Clarke County elementary school – no matter where he or she attends – that child will get to choose 12 books to bring home at the end of this school year. We’re meeting with parents at Chase and Timothy Road elementary schools in the coming weeks to share this news directly with them.

We’re also sharing this news on the heels of a banner year.

500,000 books given away since 2009! Celebrating 10 years!

But by golly, we’re gonna need all the help this community can muster to meet this goal. We need to raise an additional $40,000 from new sources and new commitments to make this a reality.

Is that a really big number for an organization with a budget of less than $500,000 and just three employees? It sure is.

Is it eminently possible? Yes – but only with the help of this incredible community that has helped us grow from a twinkle of an idea into a full-fledged, [...]

By |September 27th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Looking toward spring 2020 – 20 schools and fulfilling big promises!|

Meet board member Denise Payne!

(part of a monthly series)

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

I was the opening librarian for JJ Harris Elementary School and was approached by Leslie about bringing BFK to our school.  As soon as she said 12 free books for every student—I was hooked.  I think that  was in 2010.

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

When my husband was offered a position at HB Stroud as the assistant principal, I had to leave the media center position there.   When Leslie learned of this, she and a former board member spoke with me about being involved in BFK.   It was a tangible way to stay connected to reading and the students of CCSD.

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

As a child growing up in rural Mississippi, books were my windows to the world.  I want children to have access to the same joy that I get when reading.

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.

There have been too many to name.  From the standpoint of a media specialist–I think the most heartwarming times are when kindergarten students come in and choose the biggest books that they can.   They lug those bags proudly back to their classroom and pour over them.   As a mother, my oldest son participated in BFK and he still had a couple of books from a distribution. He is now a senior and can still vividly recall getting books from BFK distributions.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

A positive attitude, a willingness to [...]

By |September 13th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member Denise Payne!|

Meet board member Jamie Cumbie!

(part of a new monthly series)

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

My employer, Wells Fargo. Our office volunteers each year at book distribution.

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

I have been on the board since January 2019.

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

This organization has such a worthwhile mission and accomplishes it in such a fun way. I definitely wanted to be a part of it.

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.

This was my first book distribution season, and I already can’t wait for next year. I absolutely loved the students’ pure joy and excitement. It’s endearing to see kids dragging their bags while they’re still picking out even more books.

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

We are fairly new to the area, but my husband and I support various groups particularly through Franklin College at UGA. We moved from IL, and there I was heavily involved in Rotary, the hospital foundation, the Chamber of Commerce and Western Illinois University.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

I have a lot of experience volunteering and being an active board member with a variety of groups. Also, I bring a different perspective being relatively new to the area.

Do you have a keen childhood memory related to a particular book? Or an experience with reading – to yourself or to a loved one?

I’m the youngest of 5, so I had several family members that would read to me and I was fortunate to have [...]

By |August 20th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member Jamie Cumbie!|

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 [...]

By |July 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet board member Kathy Poss!|

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 – Leslie@Booksforkeeps.org

Justin Bray – Justin@Booksforkeeps.org

By |June 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Intern with Books for Keeps this fall|

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.

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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!|