Beginning in 2009, Guys Lit Wire began teaming up annually with organizations like YALSA, Readergirlz, the InsideOut Writers Program, and If I Can Read I Can Do Anything to put together book drives for teens who desperately needed books. Our mission in these efforts was to physically act on getting books into the hands of teens (boys and girls) that otherwise have little or no access to reading material. In 2011 we felt confident enough in our success to breakaway and continue forward on our own in a book fair organized and hosted solely by Guys Lit Wire. That year we worked the first time with Ballou High School in Washington DC after learning about their severe shortage of books for their 1,200+ students. In a effort to make a long standing impact on Ballou's future, we have committed to staying with them until their library meets the American Library Association standard of eleven books for each student. We are in this for the long haul and determined to help Ballou as much as we possible can.
The book fairs have always been built around a wish list at Powell's Books. We chose Powell's because the GLW crew was very determined to use an independent bookstore for this endeavoras another example of putting our money where our mouth is. GLW contributors generate ideas for books that teens will love and come up with a wishlist of all kinds of titles for each year's book drive, based also on requests for specific genres from the school or program receiving the books. Since going out on our own, we have worked directly with Melissa Jackson, the Ballou High School librarian and she continues to have final approval on the list before it goes live.
Some facts and figures on the GLW Book Fair for Boys:
- Our first annual book fair in 2009 saw over 600 books sent by bloggers and supporters to boys in the LA County juvenile justice system, many of whom were enrolled in voluntary classes through the InsideOut Writers Program. The 2,500 boys in the program started out with no books at all.
- In 2010, in conjunction with Operation Teen Book Drop, the Readergirlz and If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything, our supporters sent 772 books total to Ojo Encino Day School in New Mexico and Alchesay High School in Arizona, both schools located on Native American reservations. In these lists we had a heavy emphasis on titles by Native American authors and included a series of books Ojo Encino especially wanted that were written in both English and Navajo.
- In 2011, we broke out on our own and created a wish list with librarian Melissa Jackson for Ballou Sr High School in Washington DC. In that effort we sold out at over 800 books purchased and returned to Ballou for a small holiday list in November that saw an additional 100+ books headed their way as the year ended.
- In 2012 we were back with Ballou in the spring for 200+ more books and then returned in the fall for 175 more. We decided to slip in a little post about holiday shopping in November and 25 more books were bought bringing the year's total to 400 titles off the wish list!
- In 2013 we stayed with Ballou as they prepare to move into a new school in the fall of 2014 (but with no budget for books to fill that lovely new media center). More than 100 books were bought in the spring and then 60+ books were on their way in the November holiday book fair. Be sure to check out these pictures of the kids with their books; they were delighted with each and every one!
- In 2014 we remained with Powells for one more year and had a light book fair, but still send 75 books to Washington DC, before the new Ballou High School opened.
- And in 2015 we moved the wish list to amazon so we could get more access to some smaller press titles. Everyone dug in deep and we sent 150 more books to DC after working with the kids to come up with a list that was especially heavy on fiction titles as those were the ones their hearts most desired. We are already looking forward to what we can do in 2016!