We’ve mentioned Joe Nolting and Kids Need Books before, so we were exceptionally pleased to see that Joe is back, bringing books to the kids who need them most. Here you see him in the small laundry room of a large low-income apartment complex, where he admits one fully-masked family at a time to browse, select, and take home the books they’ve chosen.

To find out more, read “Rain Showers and Shower Gifts” on the KNB site. And if you’re able, support Joe’s work for literacy with donations of funds or items from the Wish List.

kids STILL need books

July 17, 2020

Back in February (doesn’t that seem like a very long time ago?) we published a guest post by Joe Nolting about the wonderful Kids Need Books program. Even with all the social challenges of our time, KNB has been distributing books to families who want them. Kids still need books and Joe and his team are figuring out ways to distribute them safely.

If you’re cleaning out bookshelves, please consider sharing books with people who need them. Read Joe’s latest post on KNB’s essential work and how you can help.

Kids Need Books

February 18, 2020

This is a guest post by Joe Nolting.

After teaching middle school in Alaska for 30 years, I moved to Bellingham, Washington, with my wife, Annie (a writer), in 2012. I soon fell in love with my new home town and wanted to do something to promote literacy, so I founded Kids Need Books in 2016.

Kids Need Books (KNB) hands out new and gently used books to disadvantaged Whatcom County families. I started KNB as a way to curb the summer slide — the academic decline commonly experienced by low-income students during their time away from school and books. My volunteers and I soon discovered that local families were hungry for quality reading material and the program evolved into a year-round effort for people of all ages.

Distributions take place at the weekly satellite food banks at Alderwood Elementary School and Christ the King Church, and at other sites, including the Deming Foothills Food Bank, the Agape Project in Lynden (for migrant worker families), community block parties, school literacy festivals, and an afterschool Latino book club.

KNB is run entirely by unpaid staff. I act as the program’s coordinator — acquiring, organizing, storing (mostly in my garage), and handing out books. A core group of a dozen volunteers assists me with the regular book distributions.

Most of our books are donated by Village Books, the Assistance League of Bellingham, Friends of the Bellingham Public Library, local schools, book clubs, and member congregations of the Interfaith Coalition. Some books are rarely donated, including board books for infants and bilingual books (especially books in Spanish/English and Russian/English). KNB uses Project Neighborly (Whatcom Community Foundation) grant funds and cash donations from individuals to purchase these less-often-donated reading materials.

KNB believes that literacy can build a bridge from poverty to prosperity. One of the primary goals of the program is to grow the home libraries of low-income families. Research indicates that children who grow up in a home with a library of over a hundred books are likely to successfully complete high school and pursue a college education.

As the program grows, the need for quality books, financial donations, and volunteers grows. New and gently used books (including poetry books), may be dropped off at the Interfaith Coalition office (910 14th Street, Bellingham).

Tax deductible donations may be made through the DONATE button on the KNB website. If you are interested in helping out at a book distribution, please email Joe Nolting (jtnolting AT gmail.com).

Recently, KNB handed out its 100,000th book and a volunteer coordinator from the Alderwood neighborhood remarked, “Kids Need Books has fundamentally changed the reading culture of our neighborhood. We are grateful.”

– – – – –


Joe Nolting was born in Ohio and grew up in Vermont, where he met his wife, Annie. They drove to Alaska in a VW bus and were still there 35 years later. He taught middle school in Alaska for 30 years, mostly in the Matanuska Valley, and moved to Bellingham in 2012. Annie and Joe have one son, Ben, who is a Ph.D. mathematician working as a consultant. When he is not collecting, sorting, or handing out books, Joe likes to mountain bike, read (of course), and write poetry and essays.

Joe Nolting’s poems have twice been selected as winners in the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest.

Got kids’ books?

February 3, 2017

kids' books

In case you missed it, there was a lovely article in the Bellingham Herald about Joe Nolting, a two-time Sue Boynton Poetry Contest winner, retired teacher and inspired distributor of books to kids who might not otherwise have them.

Kids Need Books! is a project of the Interfaith Coalition of Whatcom County. On the Interfaith Coalition Facebook page, they ask for your help: Donate a gently used/good quality children’s book, or purchase a new one, for Kids Need Books (KNB) program, and invest in the life of a child! KNB distributes at two local elementary schools to low income children throughout the year. Drop off book at the Interfaith Coalition, 910 14th Street, Bellingham, Washington.

According to the Herald article, Nolting hopes to distribute ten thousand books this year. Good work, Joe!

Mapping the World*

August 21, 2016

Mapping the World - Joe Nolting
2016 Merit Award
By Joe Nolting

I held your newborn body, felt the sudden
tug of your tiny heart on mine. Questions took root
as your dark eyes probed the universe. I had no answers
for these silent queries but drew a map of the world
above your crib so that you might find your way, travel
unburdened, never be lost. I shaded the landscape of
family and friends gold. Drew love’s gentle contours —
shapes of a head and heart and hand.
Traced routes skirting the debris field of loss.
As you grew older my map became frayed,
landmarks faded, known places vanished like smoke.
Soon you drew your own map of the world.
The countries were shaped like monsters and bore
terrifying names. Safe passageways had been erased.
Every crossing harbored new hazards. You read your map
as a blind man and journeyed in the darkness through
newly drawn continents of fear. For years you stumbled
across this troubled land, dropped a breadcrumb trail,
unraveled an endless ball of twine, whispered inchoate
prayers to keep from getting lost. Slowly, step-by-step
you found all that you needed to build a compass —
one whose needle floated on a tiny sea of courage
and always pointed to your heart. You tore up your map.
Now you knew the way and all the place
names sounded like love.

. . . . .
*Copyright 2016 by Joe Nolting. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

Poetry Alive

Kevin Murphy and Matthew Brouwer are at it again, this time joined by poets Shannon Laws, Joe Nolting and CJ Prince. Poetry Alive IV (or III, depending on where you look) promises “a night of poesy so mind-bendingly grand, so soul-shakingly shaking it may just inspire you to quit your day job and pursue a hermetic life of poetic penury…not that you should come with any expectations or anything…”

Proceeds benefit the Whatcom Juvenile Justice Creative Writing Project, which leads writing workshops with kids in the juvenile justice system. JJCWP affirms that all youth have a unique voice that deserves to be shared with the community and that helping teens to connect with the vitality of their imaginations can be a powerful means for self expression and personal growth.

Saturday, November 1, 2014, at 7:00pm in the Encore Room at the Mount Baker Theatre, Bellingham. $10 suggested donation.

September!

August 29, 2013

Cirque reading at Village Books

If you’re hungry for words, September promises to deliver. Thursday, September 5, 2013, brings together a number of voices from the literary journal Cirque for a reading at Village Books. The lineup includes Deborah Bernard, Bob Hicks, Rachel Mehl, Kate Miller, Sheila Nickerson, Anne Carse Nolting and Joe Nolting. (You may recognize some of these names as past Sue Boynton Poetry Contest winners.) The reading, in the Readings Gallery, is free and copies of Cirque will be available for purchase.

To warm up for the Cirque reading, which starts at 7pm, you may want to attend the VB Writes…Poetry Writing Group, which welcomes drop-ins, is also free and starts at 5:30pm on the Village Books mezzanine.

Watch this space for news of other worthwhile upcoming events, and also see the CALENDAR page, updated almost daily.

Lily of the Mohawks*

July 10, 2013

Lily of the Mohawks by Joe Nolting
2013 Merit Award
By Joe Nolting

               your Algonquian blood flows wild
yet when the white man’s water
splashes cold on your forehead
               it changes everything
even the river’s direction
pulls you from forests, lakes
past your ancestors who stir in their graves
reach out as the current pushes you
farther from the center of your world
               delivers you to the place
where water does not flow
every spoken word is a dry cough
smallpox steals your brother and parents
scars your face, blurs sight
               except for visions of a god
who commands you to sleep on thorns
walk across coals, kneel in snow
embrace each new pain with ecstasy
               ecstasy that eclipses
all but the moment of death
when your scars dissolve, sight returns
you climb into the birch bark vessel
that carries you to the wild, white water.

*Copyright 2013 by Joe Nolting. Placard design by Egress Studio.

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