A Bookish Guide to Gifts: Give Something Back

Before I dive into a post about bookish gift ideas for a friend, or a bookish wishlist filled with special editions, newly published novels, and journal or magazine subscriptions, I’m offering a few charitable gift giving suggestions if you’re looking for a way to give back this holiday season, and have the means to give to others outside your list. Here are some bookish programs that you can consider raising awareness for or donating to.

NYPL Correctional Services

On the most recent episode of The Librarian Is In Podcast, guest (and librarian) Sarah Ball discussed the Correctional Services unit of the New York Public Library. This arm of the library provides library services to incarcerated New Yorkers at city, state, and federal facilities, as well as provides programs to promote reading in the children of incarcerated parents, whether it’s sharing a book or even recording stories so children can hear their parent reading to them. As Sarah Ball explains, the role of NYPL Correctional Services is not politically driven; it is simply driven by the importance of reading, knowledge, and treating people like people. While donations are accepted, there is a set of guidelines that Ball asks to be followed – Correctional Services has created a list of frequently requested [types of] books because of the lack of shelf space and space on mobile carts – so if you would like to donate some of your own books, read the guidelines first. Additionally, there is an Amazon wishlist set up if you don’t have books to donate and are able to outright purchase a book to send to Correctional Services – click here to check it out. And, I recommend asking your local or state librarians if there is a program like this in your area.

#GiveaBook with Penguin Random House and First Book

I have written about this campaign in the past, and by now you may have heard of #GiveaBook. This partnership between Penguin Random House and First Book has already provided 100,000 books to children of low-income families, and because of this success, through December 31st Penguin Random House will triple “the impact of donations made to First Book.” Here is where you come in. If you haven’t already, use #GiveaBook on Twitter and Facebook. Then, a donation of just $3 will provide a child with a new book to read. Tell your friends, classmates, and family about this campaign; it very well could make an impact on a family close to home.

The Malala Fund

Malala Yousafzai is an advocate for the right to education for young girls, and their right to safely and adequately complete at least 12 years of schooling. At 15 years old, Malala was shot for being outspoken against Taliban efforts to restrict and stop girls from attending school. She survived, and along with her father, a teacher and education advocate in Pakistan, co-founded The Malala Fund, “to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential and to demand change.” You can offer your support with a donation, or join in with a fundraising event in honor of The Malala Fund.


Creating a Literate World,” Worldreader is a non-profit that provides schools in 52 countries with e-readers, through donation and sponsorship. Digital books and literacy materials are less expensive to publish and distribute, but can still present challenges in developing worlds where resources are minimal and community and government involvement can be  complicated, requiring understanding of the program and time. With help, mobile services can be improved, education about the services can be improved, thus improving the lives of families and children it serves. There are many ways to get involved with Worldreader, from fundraising and donations, to volunteering and sponsorship, to everything in between.

Local Causes

Ask your local librarian, a local school (K-12 or a University), your mom, a local business, if there are any literacy programs or causes that may need your help, especially during the holidays. If you can’t make a financial donation, donate your time and effort to improving the lives of children and individuals who need reading assistance, a new book to read, or even just a way to get to the library once a week.

This is a non-exhaustive list of bookish ways to give back this holiday season, and hopefully, throughout the year. If you are a volunteer or donate to a cause promoting literacy, reading, and/or education, share it in the comments below.


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