I’ve probably started several posts with this same title, but it’s fitting for the moment. Books for Keeps is officially slammed!

I hear from Kay in Greenville that BookMoochers are carrying us across the finish line. Whether it’s donating books or points, or getting mooches in the mail quickly – it all makes a difference.

And our BookMooch “angels” are out in full force. For many of them, this is the 2nd year in a row they’ve helped us accomplish something that seemed truly impossible. I don’t know how, but this group of 15 or so women can spread the word like nobody’s business. I’m so grateful… words seem inadequate.

I feel certain we’ll have enough books, but there’s no time to celebrate. My thoughts and efforts have turned to how to distribute so many books in such a short period of time. Here’s a quick glimpse into the mind-boggling details:

– We know the student counts by grade at each school, and we’ve forecasted the % of students in each grade who will read at each reading level. For example: some first graders are reading picture books, and some are reading chapter books. It matters! We have to have the right books for the right kids, or we fail.

– Next we’ll flag boxes of books for each school. Of course none of our boxes have a consistent number of books in them… so we have to find the combination of boxes that comes closest to the quantity needed at each reading level at each school. Try doing that math while standing in a storage room.

– And let’s not forget transporting the boxes to each school. Those boxes are heavy! And since storage space is nonexistent at the schools, the books have to be delivered last minute, which means a different day for each school. Yep.

– Distribution day is going to be very, very interesting. Controlled chaos, maybe? Think about it. We can’t put all our books out at once. First: no space. Second: the last kids to come through would be choosing from leftovers. So… we have the kids coming in youngest to oldest, one class at a time, and we’ll put out just enough books for each class, based on our estimate of reading level. But how many is “just enough”? Will we be able to locate the boxes we need in the 10 minute break between classes? We’re prepared to adjust on the fly.

– We’ll have volunteers on hand to help the kids select books. That’s really the most important thing, isn’t it? But when they’re not helping kids, they’ll be straightening the mess made by the previous class, while opening just the right boxes for the incoming class. Oh -and taking notes like crazy… this is our best chance to learn what we can do better.

One huge burden lifted: how the kids will get the books home. The Kenneth & Mildred Gammons Foundation awarded us a grant to purchase canvas tote bags for all 1,600 kids! The bags will be sturdy enough to survive a bus ride home, and they’ll serve as a reminder to read, read, read over summer. And how festive! I’ll post pictures when I have the bags.

So many details… that’s just a preview.

I’m also working on our 501(c)(3) application, forming a tiny Board of Directors and getting them up to speed, establishing an accounting system, and trying to figure out how we might get some publicity. Yes, it’s time to start thinking about next year and it’s going to take some significant help to get to the next level.

Coming soon: the latest round of inspiring people who’ve stepped up to help. I wish I could bottle this overwhelming gratitude and sell it… it could easily become addictive. And I want to introduce you to our initial Board of Directors – a handful of committed folks I trust completely, on the ground here in Athens, who have been working so hard behind the scenes on longer-term issues.

For now, let me say again (and again and again) how very grateful and awestruck I am by what YOU have all made happen. Books for Keeps didn’t even exist a year ago… and now we’re preparing to distribute almost 20,000 books in a manner designed to improve kids’ reading achievement without them even realizing it.

Keep the books coming… tell somebody new about Books for Keeps!