Kids Need Books
Kids Need Books (KNB) hands out new and gently used books to Whatcom County families. It was founded in the summer of 2016 to fight the summer slide—the academic decline commonly experienced by low-income students during their time away from school and books. We soon discovered that local families were hungry for quality reading material and the program evolved into a year-round effort.
As of January 2020, KNB has handed out over 100,000 books. Distributions take place at the weekly satellite food bank in Bellingham as well as throughout the county, including the Deming Foothills Food Bank, the pop-up food bank through Agape in Lynden, and Interfaith Coalition’s fall coat drives. In addition, hundreds of books have been delivered, through the efforts of Pastor Marjorie Lorant and Hope Lutheran of Lynden, to multiple migrant worker camps throughout the county.
KNB has no paid staff. Joe Nolting—KNB’s coordinator—taught middle school for 30 years in Alaska and is passionate about reading and literacy. He oversees all details of the program with the help of a core group of amazing volunteers who help with the regular book distributions.
About 80% of our books are donated by Village Books, the Assistance League, local book clubs, the Friends of the Bellingham Library, and generous congregations within the Interfaith Coalition. Some books are rarely donated, however, and we purchase these including board books for infants, and bilingual books. We also buy dictionaries and flash cards to teach basic vocabulary and math skills.
One of the primary goals of KNB is to grow the home libraries of low-income families. Research indicates that children who grow up in a home with a library of 500 of more books are likely to successfully complete high school and pursue a college education.
What you may see at a book distribution:
Picture this: five long tables covered with educational materials, board books, picture books, leveled readers, beginning chapter books, middle grade and young adult books as well as novels for adults.
Here are some stories of children served:
The twelve-year-old girl is the oldest of four children raised by a single parent father. The family has lived in a truck and moved from place to place. Now they are staying with friends until Dad can find work. I tell the girl to take as many books as she wants as I don’t know when she’ll be back. She picks up five thick novels. “These won’t take long to read,” she says with a grin.
A Somali family studies the book selection. The father picks out a dictionary. His pregnant wife wears a hijab and a flowing dress and selects Goodnight Moon and a set of vocabulary flashcards. Her high school-aged daughter asks for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series and she is in luck and walks away with a boxed set.
A nine-year-old girl—recovering from cancer—asks if it’s okay to take three books. She walks away clutching the novels to her chest like treasure.
A young boy—not yet in first grade—searches for a beginning reader and gets a book about Batman. He shouts to his friends, and races to the playground holding the book above his head.
A Latina woman selects a bilingual book about animals with fuzzy textures. She wipes away a tear, “Now I have a baby gift for my niece!”
A Russian-speaking woman gets books for her six children. A moment later she brings me a cup of coffee. There are so many ways to say Thank You and this is hers.
The eight-year-old boy picks up a set of books from the Magic Tree House series and says, “This is what I want, a never-ending story!”
And we hope that the efforts of KNB will be a never-ending success story as we continue to get books to families in need throughout Whatcom County.