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My Very Own Library and Scholastic Book Fairs Give Low-Income Students the Chance to Choose Books for Free and Build Home Libraries

In Chicago, IL; Milwaukee, WI; Newark, NJ; Richmond, CA; Wilmington, DE and the Dominican Republic, 25,000 Kids Each Choose 10 New Books to Read and Own

NEW YORK, NY—December 3, 2015— My Very Own Library (MVOL), a literacy program dedicated to putting books into the hands of children in need, together with Scholastic Book Fairs, a division of Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, is making it possible for more than 25,000 low-income students nationwide and in the Dominican Republic to choose and own 10 new children’s books and start their own home library. Piloted in Newark, NJ, My Very Own Library has expanded to serve low-income children in Chicago, IL; Milwaukee, WI; Newark, NJ; Richmond, CA; Wilmington, DE and the Dominican Republic.

My Very Own Library allows children who may have never owned their own book to choose the books they want to read from their school book fairs for free. Beginning in December, kids will choose three books from their book fair, and they will again select books at fairs in February, and finally, in June, when they will walk away with four books before summer break. By the end of the school year, each child will have 10 brand-new books of their own to create their home library.

My Very Own Library is unlike other book distribution programs because it incorporates the critical component of choice, parental engagement and school partnerships. According to the latest Kids & Family Reading Report, 90% of kids ages 6 to 17 say they are more likely to finish a book they have picked out themselves. In addition, having books in the home is a more significant indicator than family income in determining whether a child will be a frequent reader.

Founded in 2011 by the late Anne Feeley (1954-2012), My Very Own Library was first implemented in Newark, NJ with additional funding and support from the Foundation for Newark’s Future. To date, My Very Own Library has provided more than 500,000 books to students in Newark, serving more than 50% of Newark’s K–8 students. It’s been a key component of the Foundation’s effort to create a culture of literacy in Newark. By summer 2016, My Very Own Library will have provided nearly one million books to students across all six locations.

Throughout this school year, the My Very Own Library program will support:

  • Twenty-three schools in Newark, NJ, serving 15,000 students with 150,000 books (Partner Organization: Foundation for Newark’s Future and United Way of Essex and West Hudson)
  • Making Waves Academy in Richmond, CA, serving 750 students with 7,500 books
  • (Partner Organization: Making Waves Foundation)
  • Three schools in Chicago, Illinois, serving 1,248 students with 12,480 books

(Partner Organization: University of Chicago Charter Schools)

  • Eight schools in Wilmington, Delaware, serving 3,000 students with 30,000 books

(Partner Organization: United Way of Delaware)

  • Ten schools in Milwaukee, WI, serving 3,420 students with 34,200 books

(Partner Organization: United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County)

  • Twenty schools in the Dominican Republic, serving 2,000 students with 25,000 books (Partner Organization: Dream Project)

“At Scholastic, we know how critically important it is for all children to be able to choose the books they want to read and to have access to a broad selection of the very best children’s books  in order to encourage more independent reading,” said Alan Boyko, President of Scholastic Book Fairs. “By working with literacy programs like My Very Own Library, Scholastic is able to ensure that more children are given the chance to become book owners, build their own home libraries and discover the power and joy of reading.”

In the words of My Very Own Library founder Ms. Anne Feeley, ‘Children who own books have better lives. The more books the better. It’s that simple.’ And that’s exactly what MVOL is doing as we carry out Anne’s legacy—continuing to put more books in even more hands this school year,” said Shannon Boehmer, Project Director, My Very Own Library. “We couldn’t do it without the excellent relationship we have with Scholastic Book Fairs, and the support and leadership from the multiple non-profit partners who oversee the implementation of the program in all of these great locations.”

“Because of My Very Own Library, students at Abington Avenue School have received 10 self-selected books at the three My Very Own Library book fairs each year. For children who received their first MVOL as kindergarteners, this amasses to 60 books of their choosing by the end of this year in their home libraries,” said Sandra Heintz, Vice Principal of Abington Avenue School of Newark Public School District, New Jersey. “The self-selection is powerful, not only because of the fact that students are motivated to read a book of their own choosing, but also because our students will mobilize their efforts with friends, so that they share and trade books after reading. The actual number of books read per student is often well beyond the 10 provided each year!”

For more information on My Very Own Library, or for details on making a donation, please visit www.myveryownlibrary.org.


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