The Kids Need to Read/Phoenix Book Company year-end donation of books to the libraries of New Orleans took on behemoth proportions, growing from an impressive single pallet of high end books to a stupendous four pallets full. The final gift was over 3,000 books! Katelyn Castleberry, the Executive Director of the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library, is overseeing the distribution of the books for the library system. “We were blown away”, said Castleberry.

Kids Need to Read was founded by author PJ Haarsma and actor Nathan Fillion. The organization raises funds to purchase books for struggling schools and libraries, as well as institutions that give books to children. Although Kids Need to Read concentrates on delivering fiction to the many groups it assists, this particular shipment of books was a special gift from Phoenix Book Company made with the assistance of Kids Need to Read. It consisted of high end nonfiction books the area of greatest need for the New Orleans Friends group. In a letter to Kids Need to Read, Castleberry explained the distribution of the books throughout the city of New Orleans:

We cannot really quantify how extremely helpful this shipment will be to both the Friends and the Library. The donations were so top notch that we were able to fill gaps in the Library’s collections across the city. Also our book buyers were amazed at the quality items we were able to bring to the book sale. We also have a large number of neighborhood centers, shelters and organizations that we were able to drop off books to. Often these places receive little if any donations of reading material and if they do, it is usually of a low quality. We feel very fortunate to have been thought of by your organization, and have tried to begin spreading the generosity of the donation throughout the city. It is not often that one donation can help us impact so many different people spread out so far. You have really given us a tool to make a large difference to a great number of people. Thank you so much.

PJ Haarsma replied, “I am so pleased that we were able to create such an impact, especially since we began only six months ago. Kids Need to Read has stirred an incredible passion in people, and it is amazing to be able to put that energy to work in such a positive way.”

Assisting the libraries and schools of New Orleans in their recovery from Hurricane Katrina is a strong focus for Kids Need to Read. Eight of the thirteen public libraries of New Orleans were demolished in the disaster. Because all resources go toward rebuilding the destroyed libraries, funding for new books is nonexistent beyond what the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library raise. Castleberry describes the hardships still hanging heavily over the Crescent City:

People think that time has erased the challenges that Katrina posed to the Gulf South. Time has helped us heal but every day is a challenge in this environment. We have to work harder than ever to maintain our schools, libraries and culture. We are at a pivotal time in history where every step affects the future. This gift has infused us with bounty, kindness and most importantly something to share.

Kids Need to Read credits the generosity of Jade Corn of Phoenix Book Company and the influence of PJ Haarsma for the amazing donation made on behalf of the Kids Need to Read program. Kids Need to Read was tapped by Phoenix Book Company to facilitate the donation by finding an appropriate beneficiary for the types of books being donated, as well as acting as a liaison between all parties and coordinating the details of the donation. Phoenix Book Company absorbed the costly expense of shipping the books to New Orleans.

In describing Kids Need to Read, Katelyn Castleberry quoted a patron of the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library: “You sure do spread that reading around!”


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