Early one morning in 2010, I was racing around my house in Randolph, New Jersey, trying to get myself together and out the door to attend Read. Connect. Grow! in New York City. As I dashed out to make my morning train, I tripped over a pile of my kids’ books and twisted my ankle. I started yelling to my husband and anyone else who might be listening about how our collection of books was getting out of control and taking over the house. I was determined to get organized when I got back.

At the event, a group of experts spoke passionately about the monumental importance of early literacy, parental involvement and access to age-appropriate books. But it was Jumpstart’s Kim Davenport who truly changed my perspective when she told the story of 4-year-old Jeffrey. The boy had attended a Read. Connect. Grow! event with his mom where Jeffrey received his first book.

I couldn’t believe I had complained about owning too many books earlier that morning. I was dismayed that in a country where so many people have so much, children like Jeffrey could have such limited literary resources. I was also inspired by the knowledge and commitment of the panelists and the efforts of Jeffrey’s mom to give her child access to books of his own.

The next year, Jeffrey’s mother once again took precious time off from work to attend a follow-up event in order to give her son a second tome. It was the only way this dedicated mom could provide her child with age-appropriate reading materials, something she knew was critical. This simple act of love compelled me to take action.

After meeting fellow mothers Jen Barth and Renee Berry at Mom Congress in April 2011, Books Make it Better-NJ (BMIB) was born. Our mom-driven movement aims to support early literacy efforts for kids in need. The organization also provides a simple, flexible framework for families, schools and community groups to create dialogue and engage kids in activities that promote more compassion, empathy and awareness of others around them.

Collection Sites

  • 5 Diva Girls, 10 Budd Ave.,
    Chester, NJ 07930
  • Urban Cottage, 157 Main St.,
    Peapack, NJ 07977
  • Hilltop School, 12 Hilltop Road,
    Mendham, NJ 07945

Books Make It Better’s New Jersey chapter challenges community members and local businesses to step forward and support the children of the state by donating a book or sponsoring a child. In addition to establishing collection sites, we have created a virtual book drive so that people can support the movement wherever they live.

Books Make It Better also partners with national literacy organizations to raise awareness and let people know about the resources that exist and the dedicated individuals working to provide much-needed books to each and every child. Last fall, for instance, we partnered with Reach Out & Read, a national nonprofit organization endeavoring to include early literacy promotion as a routine part of pediatric care. Books Make It Better of New Jersey successfully collected nearly 2,000 books from individuals and businesses within the state.

To help spread the word and encourage everyone’s participation, Books Make It Better created a toolkit that includes a step-by-step guide to setting up a local book drive, information on forging local partnerships with early literacy organizations and a discussion guide for families and schools. To learn more about BMIB and find out how to help, visit www.booksmakeitbetter.org.

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