Books for newborns members holding booksFive years! After building for four, we found our place and hit our stride in 2021. From our launch as a stand-alone agency that shared books with new mothers and their children, we now recognize our place as an important conduit to and integral part of our region’s coordinated effort to make a real lasting difference on literacy.

Our Newborns program sparks reading and bonding from birth to improve both mothers’ and babies’ health and to lay the base which others then build on in preschool and beyond. Our Older Siblings program provides new and repurposed “like new” books to build on that base by reinforcing the importance of reading with children through their grade school years. And both programs do so in an inclusive way, ensuring that children of all races, colors, cultures and backgrounds see themselves portrayed in a positive light in the books they receive from us.

We work toward common goals with schools, more than a dozen other literacy organizations, each of our delivery partners and like-minded organizations across the United States, knowing that reading and all it entails is the key to unlocking success in school and access to a world of opportunity later in life. We are interconnected. We succeed or fail together … and we are focused on succeeding.

We hit our stride by delivering 5,009 bookbags to Newborns and another 2,645 bookbags to their Older Siblings in 2021, an increase of 55% from the prior year. In just our first five years we have now delivered 19,124 bookbags. That’s more than 81,000 books with a retail value of more than $700,000, all at no cost to those who received them, packed and delivered by an all-volunteer work force whose efforts are limited only by the amount of funding we can attract. Because research shows that each of our book bags touches at least 3 additional people, more than 75,000 people have been steered toward or kept on the path of promise that reading provides since our founding in late 2016.

2021 brought many new supporters, chief among them the 8 elementary schools who conducted book drives and 11 other organizations and individuals who combined to donate 13,405 new and “like new” books valued at >$50,000 for use in our program for older siblings. And we raised $126,308 (32% more than last year) from a broad base of 149 generous donors. Buoyed by earlier success with “Baby’s First Day” in the Newborns program, we expanded efforts at racial inclusion by working with St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature through grants from the Downtown Rotary Club of St. Louis and Missouri Humanities to add “Rock What You Got” to our book bags for older children.

We feel very good about our first five years. But we’re even more excited about what the next five years may bring. Thank you for your encouragement and support.