What began as a belief that it's never too late to inspire a love of reading became the book, Book Love, and then the Book Love Foundation.
Penny Kittle, teacher, author, advocate and the founder of the Book Love Foundation tells the story of how the foundation came to be ...
I stood in a most perfect bookstore in the Memphis airport one evening smelling the strong scent of Bar-B-Q that permeates the place as I waited for my flight.
Under maple bookshelves lit softly by spotlights, I came upon a collection of animal books, not just The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and A Dog’s Purpose by Bruce Cameron, but Cassius: The True Story of a Courageous Police Dog by Gordon Thorburn, which explores the scenting capabilities of police dogs that help solve crimes.
There were books about training birds, the history of zoos, and endangered species. I could imagine current students who would enjoy each title. This was an intriguing collection placed directly across from classics recommended by those who work in the store. There was a shelf of new fiction, one of psychology and self-discovery, and a section for business books. The store went on and on. You know: a book for anyone who might wander through this place. It’s hard not to pick lovely books up, hard not to stuff my suitcase even fuller. (I did, in fact.)
But I also twirled around the room for a moment and imagined clearing out the center shelves in the store and putting in tables, writing notebooks, and students. My classroom should be such a celebration of reading. We need a book for every reader, recommended by readers, shelved by interests and inviting browsing.
When I speak to teachers about leading readers they want this place, and I want it for them. Many have contacted me after bargaining with their principals and colleagues to set up classroom libraries and support independent reading.
But the truth is, as budgets have shrunk, books and libraries and school librarians have been cut in far too many schools. Books can have an incredible effect on children’s lives, yet there’s only one book for every 300 kids living in underserved communities in the U.S. Students need books - the right books that they can connect with.
In 2012, a collection of friends who believe in the enduring power of reading gathered around Penny Kittle's dining room table, set out to achieve one goal: to put books in the hands of students, to inspire a love reading in every child. We dream big!
The Book Love Foundation raises money to support the classroom libraries of teachers committed to the individual reading lives of every student. In 2013, 40 applications arrived in large envelopes. We gave away just four grants as we worked to secure reduced prices and shipping and handling with our vendor, Booksource. Now we manage more then 400 applications each year and give away tens of thousands of dollars each June.
Recipients of Book Love Foundation grants do not just dream, however. They organize their classrooms using a practical, proven approach to increase engagement with reading. They match books to students interests; they use book clubs to connect students to books and to each other. They sit beside students one at a time to encourage their curiosity and interest. We hear from colleagues, students, parents, and school leaders each year who witness this devotion to the reading lives of young people. If you could read the stories in these applications, you'd hit the donate button this minute.
The Book Love Foundation uses every dollar donated to expand classroom libraries. We have no employees - only volunteers. Help us support wise, dedicated classroom teachers who work to inspire lifelong readers. Dream with us. Dream big.
Penny Kittle takes student apathy head on, first by recognizing why students don't read and then showing us that when kids are given books that are right for them, along with time to read and regular response to their thinking, we can create a pathway to satisfying reading that leads more challenging literature and ultimately, a love of reading.