Books for Keeps blog

2017 BFK distribution shifts are open for group sign-ups!

It’s that time – sign up to volunteer with your group and help us give away 72,000 books this spring!

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for here at Books for Keeps – distribution time! And this year is our biggest distribution season yet. We’ve been working the past 11 months toward giving away 72,000 books to 6,000 kids in Athens, Atlanta, Warrenton, and Elberton this spring!

Join fellow volunteers by helping children select and count their books, and record their feedback about our book selection. This is the ultimate volunteer experience! Share in the joy of a Books for Keeps distribution by signing up to volunteer with us.

No special skills are required; training is provided in the first 10 minutes of each shift – so the most important requirement is to show up on time! We are not quite ready to sign up individuals for shifts – those spots will open during the first week of April (so stay in the loop by signing up for our newsletter!)

If you are part of a group that would like to adopt an entire shift (8 to 12 volunteers), please email Leslie Hale to sign up. Available shifts will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Sign-ups will open to the general public (and individuals) during the first week of April, so if there’s a special school or special day when you’d like to volunteer, please don’t delay!


Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School – Athens, GA
Monday, April 24th: 7:50 a.m. – 11:25 a.m. | 11:45 a.m. – 1:50 p.m.
Tuesday, April 25th: 9:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. | 12:20 p.m. – 2:50 p.m.

Barnett Shoals Elementary School – Athens, GA
Wednesday, April 26th: 8:15 a.m. – 10:35 a.m. | 11:10 a.m. – [...]

By |March 28th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on 2017 BFK distribution shifts are open for group sign-ups!|

It’s Book Drive time! (Updated)

The Books for Keeps bi-annual book drive is happening now!
Twice a year, Books for Keeps organizes community-wide book drives to help collect books for both our program and our annual book sale. We would like to thank our partner organizations who are hosting book drives currently:

Athens First Bank & Trust
UGA American Medical Student Association
Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful
Sigma Tau Delta at UNG
Girl Scout Troop 12050
Rocky Branch Elementary School
Ebenezer Baptist Church West
Friends and Neighbors of Camilla Bracewell
First Presbyterian Church
Junior League of Athens
Double Helix STEAM School
Allstate Insurance, Merryn Walker
Clarke Central High School
Friends and Neighbors of Mary Madden
Leon Farmer & Company
Pi Beta Phi at UGA
Learning Ally
Friends and Neighbors of Gina Gallois

If you or your friends and family have books to donate, feel free to drop them off at one of these sites that are open to the public. Note- the Clarke County High School and Double Helix donation sites are only available to students and staff.

Book drives are a critical part of what we do, and they would not be possible without your help. And don’t be discouraged- there’s never a bad time to host a book drive! Though we organize community-wide book drives twice a year, we are happy to help coordinate a book drive at any point during the year, as we are always accepting donations. (And if you can’t make it to one of these locations – or have books to donate during another time of year – our community-wide drop-off sites are always accepting books!)

Email if you’re interested [...]

By |March 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on It’s Book Drive time! (Updated)|

Cedar Shoals High School needs your help!

Our friend and colleague Katie Johnson, a teacher with the Cedar Shoals Freshman Transition Camp, needs books!

If you have any gently used copies of these books to donate, you can drop them off a Cedar Shoals High School or mail them, ATTN: Katie Johnson. The address is: 1300 Cedar Shoals Dr, Athens, GA 30605. Thanks for your help reaching these students with thought-provoking, high-interest books as they make their move to high school – from Books for Keeps, from Cedar Shoals, and from the students!

Here is the list of what is needed:
Yummy by G. Neri
Playground by 50 Cent
Fist Stick Knife Gun (the graphic novel version) by Geoffrey Canada
Love Don’t Live Here No More: Doggy Tales Vol 1 by Snoop Dogg
Hey Ya; The Unauthorized Biography of Outcast by Chris Nickson
Forged by Fire by Sharon Draper
The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexis
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Also needed by in smaller quantities:
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez

In summer 2016, Cedar Shoals hosted this summer program to help students transition into high school. Part of this program was handing out lexile-level-appropriate books to students entering 9th grade at feeder middle schools, Hilsman and Coile. Before camp began, students had to read their assigned book. Once at camp, students were organized into groups by what book they were assigned to read, and [...]

By |March 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Cedar Shoals High School needs your help!|

Save-the-date for 2017 distributions!

It’s time to save the date for 2017 Books for Keeps distributions, and this year is our biggest yet! With help from our wonderful volunteers, we’ll be giving away nearly 75,000 books to more than 6,000 children at a record 15 schools in Athens, Atlanta, Warrenton, and Elberton. This is your chance to experience the joy of students eager to pick out 12 free books for summer- and for keeps!

School-specific volunteer shifts will be scheduled in March, and we will announce when they have been finalized. If you are an individual who would like to volunteer at a specific school, please mark your calendar!

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 or on a specific day, please email Louis Crow to reserve a shift for your group.

April 24-25, 2017: Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School- Athens, GA
April 26-27, 2017: Barnett Shoals Elementary School- Athens, GA
April 28, 2017: Winterville Elementary School- Winterville, GA
May 1-2, 2017: Gaines Elementary School- Athens, GA
May 2, 2017: Alps Road Elementary School- Athens, GA
May 3-4, 2017: Howard B. Stroud Elementary School- Athens, GA
May 4, 2017: Downtown Academy- Athens, GA
May 5, 2017: M. E. Freeman Elementary School- Warrenton, GA
May 8-9, 2017: Elbert County Primary School- Elberton, GA
May 10, 11 and 15, 2017: Whitehead Road Elementary School- Athens, GA
May 12, 2017: Cleveland Road Elementary School- Athens, GA
May 15-16, 2017: Fowler Drive Elementary School- Athens, GA
May 17-18, 2017: J.J. Harris Elementary School- Athens, GA
May 19, 2017: Dunbar Elementary School- Atlanta, GA
May 23, 2017: Benteen Elementary School- Atlanta, GA

We look forward to seeing you [...]

By |February 8th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Save-the-date for 2017 distributions!|

BFK is hiring (again)!

It’s been a remarkable year for Books for Keeps – we added our second employee, two-and-a-half years after BFK Executive Director was first hired in 2013. We added a new school, our first since 2014, and are deep into preparations to add four new schools in 2017.

We’re so not done growing.

Books for Keeps is excited to announce the addition of two part-time positions, to begin work in early 2017. These positions, an administrative assistant and a communications manager, could be combined into a single position depending on an individual’s resume and experience.

Check out the administrative assistant job description here and the communications manager job description here.

These positions will help Books for Keeps scale up, get stronger and smarter with the use of the executive director’s and program manager’s time, and enable us to start reaching 14 new schools over the next three years. Have questions? Just email Leslie directly:

Oh, and here are a few numbers from 2016:

By |December 7th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on BFK is hiring (again)!|

BFK welcomes Louis Crow as new program manager

It is with much excitement that we announce the hiring of Louis Crow, who will join Books for Keeps as program manager next month when Rachel Watkins steps down.

Louis comes to Books for Keeps after having earned his Bachelor of Social Work degree from UGA. Louis has deep roots here, born and raised in Athens and a graduate of Clarke County Schools. He has a background in mentoring children with Project Safe, serving Athens’ aging adults with the Athens Community Council on Aging, and volunteering with Community Connection in assessing local needs. In his free time, Louis enjoys woodworking and spending time with his wife and pets.

Louis joins Books for Keeps as the organization is on the cusp of a 14-school expansion over the next three years. Louis’ primary responsibilities will be managing volunteers and fostering relationships with the schools and districts where Books for Keeps serves. He will additionally help grow Books for Keeps’ relationships with publishers as the organization broadens its selection and inventory, toward a goal of giving away 140,000 books annually by 2019. Welcome, Louis!

Outgoing Program Manager Rachel Watkins, who joined the Books for Keeps team in January of this year, is moving on to help Athens partner Avid Bookshop establish a second location in the Five Points neighborhood. Rachel will be missed, and has promised to come back as a volunteer next spring. Best of luck, Rachel!

By |October 25th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on BFK welcomes Louis Crow as new program manager|

Our BIG news – a BIG push to reach more children

Last week was a big one for us.

Part of a strategic plan in the works for over a year – we finally got to announce a major commitment to expand Books for Keeps into 14 additional elementary schools across Georgia over the next three years.

That commitment, formally announced at at meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in Atlanta, allowed us to reprise an appearance at the CGI America meeting made by Melaney Smith, the Books for Keeps founder, in 2011. Oh, how we’ve grown since then! We nearly tripled our program, hired two full-time employees, and grew outside our little home community of Athens. We were honored that Melaney was invited back to present our commitment on stage during Day 2 of the CGI meeting, while Executive Director Leslie Hale represented Books for Keeps during the full two-day event.

Officially, finally, we could say it: by 2019, Books for Keeps will be serving 11,000 children annually all over Georgia – including every child attending a Clarke County elementary school. Five of those schools will be in Atlanta, and another three in rural Georgia counties, starting with Elberton. That’s 140,000 books given away annually.

While last week was big – appearing on a big stage, making a major announcement – much of the work lies ahead. We will triple our program reach over the next three years. That means going out and getting the community buy-in – from EVERY corner of the community – necessary to serve 7,000 new students at 14 new schools.

Can we do it? We sure can – but only with the help of people like you. Make a donation, make an introduction, sign up for our newsletter – or just spread the word.

Want to help, [...]

By |June 21st, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Our BIG news – a BIG push to reach more children|

Books for Keeps is partnering with Malcolm Mitchell!

On March 31, 2016 we officially announced a partnership with former UGA wide receiver and reading advocate Malcolm Mitchell.

We are so excited to share the details of that partnership here. Our press release announcing the initiative – to give a copy of Malcolm’s book, The Magician’s Hat, to every first-grade student in the Clarke County School District – is below.

To make a donation to this initiative, please visit our Donate page. Make sure to designate your gift toward the Read with Malcolm partnership when you donate. And thanks!



ATHENS, GA. – March 31, 2016 –Books for Keeps and former UGA wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell are launching a partnership to ignite a passion for reading in Athens students.

Together, Mitchell and the Athens-based nonprofit plan to provide a copy of Mitchell’s book, The Magician’s Hat, to every first-grade student in the Clarke County School District this spring. Read with Malcolm and Books for Keeps are working together to raise the funds necessary to provide books to all 1,200 first-grade students in Clarke County this May – a $15,000 fundraising endeavor – and are calling on the community’s support.

“The only boundaries are those we create for ourselves,” Mitchell said. “I truly believe that books give kids the opportunity to reach their full potential, to expand their minds and accomplish all of their goals.”

Mitchell published his book after discovering and nurturing a love for reading while he was a student-athlete at The University of Georgia. After struggling to improve his own reading level, he joined a book club and was overwhelmed by the way that reading united him with other people and sharpened his [...]

By |April 4th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Books for Keeps is partnering with Malcolm Mitchell!|

Distribution time is here – sign up to volunteer!

It’s that time of year when our hearts swell. It’s like Christmas, and we get to feel like Santa Claus, giving more than 45,000 books away to children all over Athens, Atlanta, and Warrenton.

Join us as we help children select and count their books and record their feedback on our book selection. This is the ultimate volunteer experience! Share in the joy of a Books for Keeps distribution by signing up to volunteer with us.

No special skills are required; training is provided in the first 10 minutes of each shift – so the most important requirement is to show up on time! Sign up for a shift via Community Connection at this link.

If you are part of a group that would like to adopt an entire shift (8 to 12 volunteers), please email Rachel Watkins to sign up: Available shifts will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. There is limited space in each shift, so please don’t delay!


[Thursday, April 28, 2016: 7:55 a.m.-11:10 a.m. SHIFT FULL and 11:10 a.m.-2:10 p.m. BOTH SHIFTS FULL]
Friday, April 29, 2016: 7:45 a.m.-11:10 a.m. 

[Friday, April 29, 2016: 12:45 p.m.-2:30 p.m. SHIFT FULL]

[Monday, May 2, 2016: 7:55 a.m.-11:40 a.m. and  12:15 p.m.-1:45 p.m. BOTH SHIFTS FULL]
[Tuesday, May 3, 2016: 8:15 a.m.-11:45 a.m. SHIFT FULL] and 11:50 a.m.-1:50 p.m. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016: 7:55 a.m.-10:35 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 5, 2016: [7:45 a.m.-10:30 a.m. SHIFT FULL] and 10:25 a.m.-12:20 p.m.
Friday, May 6, 2016: 8:05 a.m.-12:25 p.m. [and 12:25 p.m.-2:15 p.m. SHIFT FULL]

Monday, May 9, 2016: 8:45 a.m.-11:25 a.m. [and 11:30 a.m.-2:45 [...]

By |March 29th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Distribution time is here – sign up to volunteer!|

Malcolm Mitchell’s story – spreading the magic of reading

We talk a lot at Books for Keeps about third-grade reading scores – about how getting a child on grade level and in love with reading by the middle of elementary school is so critical because it can forecast the rest of their educational careers, even the rest of their lives.

But by the same token, we’re constantly reminded that it’s never too late to get a student hooked on reading. It was made clear during a conversation last fall with Aliyah, a middle-schooler who – as a new student in Clarke County in the fifth grade – found that her bag of 12 books from BFK transformed her perspective on school. She went from being a student who felt disengaged, whose self-esteem was shot because her reading scores were low, to feeling more confident and excited just to go to class.

UGA Football wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell’s story is one of those stories, and we have been itching to work with him. We’re excited that those stars are finally aligning.

To hear Malcolm talk about his journey is a testament to the power of books to open up new worlds. Before he walked into a Barnes and Noble, as a freshman in college, he had no idea there was an entire universe of children’s books out there. He didn’t grow up with them.

But as an adult, he discovered the power of good books, starting with The Hungry Caterpillar and working his way up, eventually joining a book club. He discovered the way books can illuminate dark corners of your life, spur conversations with new people, and totally change your perspective on the world – and yourself.

Malcolm wrote a children’s book, The Magician’s Hat, two years ago and [...]

By |March 3rd, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Malcolm Mitchell’s story – spreading the magic of reading|