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Miami-Dade Program Gives Needy Kids Free Books, But It's Running Out

Read to Learn Books for Free staff

A program in Miami-Dade County that gives kids and parents free books to keep and read together is in the midst of a big push for donations.

The Read to Learn Books for Free program is having trouble keeping up with demand. The program distributes 3,000 books at more than 30 locations around the county every week in an effort to increase literacy among some of the county's most vulnerable children.

"Many of these kids are in families in low-income or under-resourced neighborhoods throughout the county," says Bess Perry, the program's coordinator. "A lot of these kids have never had a book of their own, have never really had access to them outside of school. So it's really important that we're able to get these books into their hands."

The books are placed on bookshelves at various locations around the county, including doctors' offices and community centers. These locations are identified by Miami-Dade Public Schools as areas in close proximity to struggling schools. 

The program partners with each location where the books are shelved, and staff members are often on site to oversee book distribution. 

Bess says the program is widely praised by parents and kids with only one notable complaint -- they want to take more than one book. 

"Parents want to walk out with a stack, which we would love for them to do, but at this time we don't have the resources," says Bess. 

The Read to Learn Books for Free program is sponsored by the Children's Trust in partnership with The Center for Literature and Theatre at Miami Dade College.

Read to Learn has book drives throughout the county for anyone who would like to help. Right now a big campaign is underway in Miami Beach. Ten drop-off locations are available there for donations.

Bess says books can also be donated through a virtual book drive.

"So we have selected titles," she says. "We have bilingual titles. We have all age groups that service all of the kids throughout the county, and you can pick whatever you'd like to donate to the program. For every donation that you make, it's placed directly on the shelf through our partner, First National Book Bank."