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 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.”

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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.

raise your hand

December 10, 2018

We were happy to discover the The Book Lover’s Guide to Volunteering (‘Tis the Season To Think About Helping Others) in Friday’s Literary Hub. It didn’t take more than a few minutes to come up with a lively list of Cascadia-region literary volunteer opportunities:

Didn’t find the opportunity you’re looking for? Search online by city or county using the words literacy, volunteer, or books, or check your local volunteer clearinghouse in person or online.

breakfast with Nancy

September 27, 2018

Reader, best-selling author, librarian, and literary critic, Nancy Pearl is also a fierce advocate for the importance of literacy. Each year, she shares her list of favorite reads at a fundraising breakfast to support the Whatcom Literacy Council.

This year’s Literacy Breakfast will be held on Thursday, November 8, 2018, at 7:00am on the campus of Bellingham Technical College. Advance Registration of $11 is required to hold your seat (or $88 per table). Call (360) 752-8678 or email events@whatcomliteracy.org to reserve a seat.

Little Free Libraries

Perhaps you’ve noticed the little house-on-a-post as you’re driving through the neighborhood. Perhaps you’re a regular user. In an ongoing surge of community- and literary-mindedness, the Little Free Library program, started in 2009, continues to proliferate.

In Bellingham, Washington (and probably in other cities), you can find a Google map of official and unofficial LFLs or view the photo collection assembled on Facebook by the James Street Library. For more LFL information, visit the official Little Free Library site or the LFL Facebook page.

If you have books you don’t plan to read again, or “extra” copies of your poetry chapbook, why not drop them off? You never know where your next fan will come from.
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more for September

August 31, 2015

WORD Vancouver

WORD Vancouver returns Wednesday, September 23, through Sunday, September 27, 2015, with a packed schedule of readings, book signings, workshops, panel discussions, performances, exhibits and celebrations (including plenty of poetry) at various venues around Vancouver, BC.

WORD Vancouver is free and you can find a complete schedule on the WORD Vancouver website, plus additional information on Facebook.

celebrate books

May 13, 2013

Childrens Book Week

2013 marks the 94th annual celebration of Children’s Book Week, the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Why not take this opportunity to read some poetry aloud with the child or children in your life? (And speaking of children and poetry, be sure to come support the readers of all ages at the Sue Boynton Poetry Contest Awards Ceremony this Thursday, May 16.) Here’s more about Children’s Book Week.

Literacy Walk/RunThink of it as sort of a book group on the hoof. The 14th Annual Walk/Run for Literacy, Saturday, June 29, 2013, is a fundraising 5k that supports the work of the Whatcom Literacy Council. It starts at 9:00am in Fairhaven in front of Village Books/Fairhaven Runners, follows the Padden Creek trail, passes Fairhaven Park and loops back to Mill Avenue near 11th Street.

Registration is now open. Sign up. Walk. Run. Support literacy. It’s fun!

(After your morning walk/run, you’ll have plenty of time to cool down, enjoy the day and find your way back to the Firehouse Performing Arts Center for SpeakEasy 11: Poet’s Mind: concept and process. More on that to follow.)

the open mic…6

June 30, 2011

microphonePoet/Vietnam vet/toolmaker Malcolm Hall Kenyon has published 12 chapbooks of his poetry, including The Goat Island Battery and Expeditions to the Golden Triangle. He currently teaches English as a second language for the Whatcom Literacy Council and prefers, as he says, “the company of people set on fixing the world who have their sleeves already rolled up and grease on their hands.” He shares this musing on open mics:

I think the open mic at poetrynight has been crucial in my commitment to poetry. If the poet doesn’t have an audience, he is talking to himself. The peer group reading with me for the past 10 years has been a workshop, a support group, my main social outlet, a sounding board for my ideas, rhetoric, polemics. We are often said to have the most supportive open mic in the USA — this is the frequent comment by visiting poets from all over the hemisphere. I think that poets that stick strictly to the page ‘have all the words but none of the music.’ Poetry is also a spoken art, and the theater people among us have taught me that it is also a performing art. Poetry is about sound; and if you don’t speak it, there is no sound.

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