In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we’re all thinking about which charity to donate to. Where do we find our Sub-for-Santa family? What place is picking up canned goods for the food bank? And where was it we were supposed to take those winter coats we no longer need?
But what about books for Christmas? Or for that matter, all year round. What’s the best way to get books into the hands of children who probably won’t get them otherwise?
Dawn Houghton, founder of Book Wagon, has already figured it out.
What is Book Wagon?
Book Wagon (www.BookWagon.org) is a nonprofit endeavor based on the idea of the Book Mobile, except kids get to keep the books as their own instead of checking them out and returning them. The organization collects new and gently used picture books and chapter books for children between the ages of 5 and 13. These books are loaded into a red wagon and are taken to one of the nine Salt Lake County housing sites to be delivered.
Since its inception, more than 1,200 books have been placed in the hands of nearly 350 children.
When she was growing up as a pre-teen and teen, Houghton lived with her mom and younger siblings in two different low-income housing complexes that Book Wagon now delivers to.
“Back then, I was desperate for books. So I borrowed from neighbors, all sorts of genres: mystery, horror, romance, even Mad Magazine. I recognized a little then, but mostly later, that books, while very important, are a luxury item for many families. They were for mine.”
Book Wagon is an entirely volunteer organization. There is no overhead; no paid staff. All the books go to the kids. Houghton says, “So far, it’s been like the loaves and the fishes — enough books appear and just at the right time.”
How to donate?
There are several great options for contributing to Book Wagon. Stop by The King’s English Bookshop (www.KingsEnglish.com) and purchase a book — they will deliver it to Book Wagon for you. Or, you can call The King’s English Bookshop at (801) 484-9100 and donate money to the Book Wagon account over the phone. Children request specific books and Houghton uses the account to fulfill the requests. Books can also be donated at The Salt Lake County Housing Authority, 3595 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, 84115 ATTN: Cassandra Meyers.
If none of these options work, simply send an email to email@example.com and Houghton will arrange to meet you in Salt Lake City to pick up your books.
What’s the best part about donating to Book Wagon?
Houghton always delivers the books in person, and that happens once or sometimes twice a month. “You’d think I was giving huge candy bars, the way the children react when they see the red wagon and the bins of books when I first walk in the door,” she says. “At the end, I get hugs and screaming ‘thank yous’ and the kids help me pack up and pull the wagon to my car. I always drive home feeling this great sense of peace and purpose.”
Just the feeling we’re all looking for this busy holiday season.
This article was first published in The Daily Herald, December 18, 2013.