19 December 2011

Treat Yourself 2011: What More Can I Give?

So maybe you don't need more reading material, much less reading material packaged up in pretty boxes. Maybe your intended recipient has enough knicknacks and blank books. Why not make a donation in her or his name to some kind of reading-related charity to show that your love of books is more than just between the two of you? There are thousands of options, but here are just five:

FirstBook: I'm a huge booster of FirstBook (not that I can find the last time I wrote about them, so maybe it's time to make another donation myself?) but I think the pitch is pretty irresistible. Chances are if you're reading this you grew up in a house of books, and it's hard to imagine that there are kids out there who don't have any books to call their own. First Book takes your donations and buys books wholesale so kids can have their own to read a billion times over. If I can't convince you, perhaps Nick Kristof will. Charity Navigator, a nonprofit grading other nonprofits on their financial health and transparency, gave this organization three stars.

Donors Choose: If you know any k-12 school teachers, you've probably been exposed to this online charity where teachers put up their "projects" and what they plan to buy with donations -- from projectors to lab equipment to craft supplies. Classroom sets of books are a popular choice -- you can even find out if they're still teaching your old favorites by running a search (although hey, look, THE HUNGER GAMES is trending!) Charity Navigator gave this organization four stars.

Reading Partners: Especially for those of us in New York, Washington D.C. and California, but expanding to Baltimore and other cities next year, this group recruits adult tutors for kindergarten through fifth grade students who have fallen behind in reading to offer them some extra help behind the scenes. It's a great program to support financially if you aren't able to volunteer during the school day when tutoring happens (no judgment here). Charity Navigator gave this organization four stars.

Books for Soldiers: While you're fulfilling the wish lists of family and friends, sign up for this site and send an active-duty member of the military a book that he or she wants. (Just because we're at the end of combat operations in Iraq... you know what I'm saying.) Charity Navigator didn't rate Books for Soldiers; I'm including it here because it does have nonprofit status, although it is church-affiliated if that information is important to you.

Your local library. I assume if the New York Public Library is asking for donations all the time, if even a city with a lot of rich people isn't turning out its pockets fast enough for the public library, then they probably could all use the help. And again, as with FirstBook: Dig around for your formative experiences in public libraries. Chances are you have a few. Everybody deserves that. (And that's how she demonstrated why she doesn't write fundraising campaigns for a living.)

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