Book Fairies is on a mission to improve literacy and spark a love of reading by providing free books to students, schools, educators, and more in New York. Book Fairies has donated millions of books since its founding and goes above and beyond to get books into the hands of as many children as possible. Learn more about Eileen’s amazing work here!
Can you tell me about the need for your services?
Access to books is one of the biggest barriers to literacy. Books are essential for education and literacy, but there are so many kids out there living in bookless homes or who have parents who aren’t around to read to them. We work with Title 1 schools from New York City to the Hamptons to provide free books to students and educators. We donated 574,000 books last year and are hoping to hit 675,000 this year. Our goal is to foster a culture of reading by having more books available in classroom libraries and in kids’ homes.
Where are your books coming from, and where are they being donated?
Our books come from book drives, people cleaning out their homes, or getting rid of books that their kids have outgrown. Schools and nonprofits can visit our book bank once per month and take as many books as they want. At our most recent distribution day, we gave out 21,000 books in three hours. Teachers visit the book bank on their day off to pick up books for their classrooms and are so excited to share new stories with their students. Schools can also place orders with us by the box for delivery. Kids are looking for “mirror books” so they can see themselves in literature, and we spend about $20,000 each year on diverse stories.
How does your impact extend beyond the classroom?
There are a ton of secondary benefits that come from the work we do. Many books come in that are well loved, yellow, and dog eared. Students don’t feel prideful taking a visibly used book home, they want something that feels new. We recycle books that are too damaged for us to distribute and end up recycling about 12 tons of books per year. We also send books to the US Africa Children’s Fellowship to help build libraries all over Africa. We partner with other organizations across New York to provide books, like the Brooklyn Public Library, Rikers Island, homeless shelters, foster care centers, and more. We work with adult disability organizations that provide work for those with special needs who have aged out of school. Since we don’t have transportation vehicles to move our books around, these adults drive trucks and vans to help us with book drop offs.
What is the best part of your job?
I love seeing the kids when they get their hands on new books. They hold the books to their chests and are so excited that they get to take them home. We recently gave away our 4 millionth book— a little boy took home the book "Diary of a Wimpy Kid". He had started reading the book at his school library but couldn’t finish it by the time the year ended, and he was thrilled that he would finally be able to see how the story ends. I’ve been working here for about four years to raise awareness, fundraise, grow our staff, and build infrastructure. We’re working hard towards reaching our goal of donating one million books per year in the next five years.