Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has partnered with Family-to-Family's One Book at a Time program to help underserved children with limited access to books build their own home library, and to connect book donors with readers. Founded in 2003, Family-to-Family currently aids close to 2,000 families per month. The group's hunger-relief effort has provided an estimated 1.5 million meals for families in the U.S. over the past nine years. OBAAT, modeled after the one-to-one model created for the hunger-relief effort, focuses on building personal connections between established and new readers.
Participating SIBA bookstores are adding the OBAAT program to their Web sites, and inviting donors and local agencies like the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, and local schools, to join. Donors choose favorite titles to give to young readers, or opt to allow bookstore staffers to make the picks. Once designated agencies and schools receive the chosen titles, they then pass the book on to the child. "Our goal is to get books into the homes of our country's poorest children and we really do depend on 'the kindness of strangers' to make that happen," said Pam Koner, executive director of Family-to-Family. “In linking up with independent booksellers we get this wonderfully broad audience.”
Donors commit to providing a child with one book a month for 12 months. In addition to giving books, donors are encouraged to send a letter to the child through the agency, and develop a correspondence discussing literature and sharing book titles. "I am so excited about the One Book at a Time partnership,” said Wanda Jewell, executive director of SIBA. “It is a brilliant way for SIBA stores to further their outreach into their own communities and beyond, and to spread the love of literature and need for literacy message that One Book at a Time supports."
Richard Buthod, former sales manager for Turtleback Books, was recently hired by SIBA as the OBAAT organizer. "Richard is informed, dedicated, and outgoing," said Jewell. "I see his experience with Common Core titles matching up with creating appropriate lists of titles for SIBA's OBAAT Bookstore Resource Page. Certainly, no one is more prepared to suggest titles than an indie bookseller, but we want to assist in any way we can. Further into the future, it is my hope that Richard will also be assisting SIBA stores in their Common Core outreach."
With more than 35 years experience selling books to libraries and booksellers, Buthod will help manage the book donor program, and provide booksellers with his curated Common Core lists. "The Common Core list can be an important development, but it isn’t the goal," said Buthod. "It’s an example of what OBAAT can do. It’s such a community building effort. If non-profs start thinking of bookstores as partners, and schools who have a voracious need of home libraries, they then can put their burden on bookstores. This is the village helping raise the child."
Booksellers including Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C., Books on Broad in Camden, S.C., Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., Sundial Books on Chincoteague Island, Va., Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., and Garden District Bookshop in New Orleans have signed up to participate in OBAAT. Details can be found on SIBA’s website.