As Christmas inches nearer, I know everyone, their mother, their cousin twice removed, and their dog are asking you for money.
And I know there are a number of noble causes out there. Food, clothes, shelter, and safety are all essential. But so is an education, and the vessel for education is books and literacy.
That's why I wanted to share my favorite literacy nonprofits with you. Like most nonprofits at this time of year, they're all having year end appeals. I'll share what nonprofits--both local, national, and international--have grabbed my heart and why I love what they do.
The Birmingham Public Library
Even if you're not a library user yourself, the library's presence in the community still positively affects you. Many go to the library for help applying for jobs online, which helps reduce the unemployment rate, which helps people contribute to the tax base and keeps them off the streets, thereby reducing crime.
The library is also a safe place for kids to go after school, which keeps them out of mischief. The library offers author expos, writing workshops, and other resources to writers, which helps foster the city's literary culture.
Since I'm working my way toward librarianship, I could, of course, go on, but the truth is that I could never say enough good things about the library. So please consider a donation to the BPL because it will benefit the entire city of Birmingham. (Library budgets are being slashed left and right, so they need all the help they can get.
The Literacy Council of Central Alabama
Did you know there are 92,000 functionally illiterate adults in Central Alabama? NINETY-TWO THOUSAND. If you're reading this blog, I know you love books, so I ask you: can you imagine yourself not being able to do one of your favorite hobbies and navigating life only knowing a handful of words?
Pretty f*%#ing scary, I know. But for many, this nightmare is a reality. Fortunately, The Literacy Council of Central Alabama is working to alleviate illiteracy in our area. They train volunteers to work with illiterate adults to give them the reading skills they need to enhance their quality of life, get better jobs, and explore just how magical the world can be. These volunteers lead workshops at local libraries and community centers to try to reach as many of these functionally illiterate adults as possible.
Books have been scientifically proven to make people more empathetic and the idea of someone not being able to experience the spellbinding magic of a good books makes my heart cry. So please consider a donation to The Literacy Council of Central Alabama. (They're also remodeling their office to better serve their needs for space, so they need lots of help.)
Desert Island Supply Company (DISCo)
DISCo is the kind of place I wish with all my heart had existed when I was a kid. They offer homework help, creative writing workshop, craft sessions, letterpress, and more for the under-18 crowd. Conveniently located next to Woodlawn High School, it serves a historically under-served community.
The idea of kids gathering to learn, read, and write in a fun high seas-themed place makes me unspeakably happy. Not only that, DISCo is smart in business--though a nonprofit, the front of their facility is a posh retail store selling books, letterpress goods, messages in bottles, and other things one might need to survive on a desert island. I've got quite the soft spot for smart, socially conscious business.
Even so, a tiny retail store isn't enough to sustain the organization and its mission. Nor is renting out the space for evening events, which is how, at 24, I've gotten to experience the splendor of the space. Without creative writing, there wouldn't be books, so please consider a donation to DISCo.
National Center for Families Learning
What I love about this organization is that it's not just a vehicle to foster literacy in kids and it's not just a vehicle to foster literacy in adults--they focus on entire families.
If you don't come from a reading family, you know how hard it is to be a reader in a family of non-readers. Between family not respecting your need for a quiet space, ridiculing you for reading, books getting lost in the shuffle of family life, loud TVs, and more, it's not easy being a reader. That's why the NCFL's work is so important.
By working with entire family units through literacy workshops, the entire family learns to value reading. This gives them a hobby they can do together that's educational and brings them closer together and teaches them to respect the reading space for any kids in the family so they can go on to be the best they can be. So please consider a donation to NCLC.
Book Aid International, Room to Read, and LitWorld
These three wonderful organizations do essentially the same thing: they provide books to children in developing countries. The books typically go to areas that are densely populated and have underfunded schools, such as in parts of India and Subsaharan Africa.
I've heard stories of 50 kids stuffed into a classroom with no desks and sharing four books between them. I believe that anyone who wants an education and is willing to work to get one should have that ability. Let's help make it happen. So please consider a donation to Book Aid International, Room to Read, and LitWorld.
And as a bonus...
Like I mentioned, I'm a huge fan of socially conscious businesses. I'm an advocate of supporting your local bookstore, but if you want something they don't have, please consider book shopping online at Better World Books. For every book you buy, they donate a book to libraries and literacy programs nationwide.
And if you're unable to donate at this time (Christmas is expensive, I know!) just bookmark this page and donate later. Literacy is of year-round importance, so whether now or later, what matters is your support.