Best Literacy Charities 2023

  • literacy charities
  • 03 December, 2022

’Tis the time of the year, that Shanahan on Literacy recommends literacy charities for your consideration. Users of this site have deep concerns about literacy education, so it makes sense to donate to charities that distribute books to children or provide reading instruction to those in need.

Every year, I consult Charity Navigator (U.S.) and Charity Intelligence (Canada) to identify the top-rated literacy charities (4-star in U.S., and 5-star in Canada). You can be sure that the charities listed here:

  • Are international, national, or multi-regional in scope,
  • Focus entirely or mainly on charitable action devoted to providing books and literacy instruction to populations in need,
  • Provide books and literacy services directly to children,
  • Are transparent in their reporting, and
  • Spend all or most of the money they collect on their missions rather than on overhead.

That means that if you donate to these organizations, good literacy things happen for lots of kids.

I’m recommending these charities today, but these listings remain easy to find on my site for the coming year:

In case you’re wondering, I have no connection to any of these organizations.

I also encourage you to consider supporting one of the many worthwhile local literacy charities in your communities. There are so many of these I cannot possibly vet them all, but there are men and women throughout the world striving to meet the reading needs of children and they, too, could use your help.

Please be generous, be safe, and have a wondrous and literate holiday.

RELATED: Shared Reading in the Structured Literacy Era

U.S. Charities

Book Trust. Book Trust attempts to empower kids from low-income families to choose and buy their own books, all through the school year. They focus on children’s book choices and ownership. Studies show that children are much more likely to read books that they choose. During the past year, Book Trust has served more than 40,000 children in 20 states – and they have distributed more than 9 million books over the past two decades.

Books for Africa.  Founded in 1988, Books for Africa (BFA) collects, sorts, ships, and distributes books to children in Africa. Our goal is to end the book famine in Africa. Books donated by publishers, schools, libraries, individuals, and organizations are sorted and packed by volunteers who carefully choose books that are age and subject appropriate. We send good books, enough books for a whole class to use. Since 1988, Books for Africa has shipped more than 56 million books to every African country. They are on once-empty library shelves, in classrooms in rural schools, and in the hands of children who have never held a book. Each book will be read repeatedly. When the books arrive, they go to those who need them most: children who are hungry to read, hungry to learn, hungry to explore the world in ways that only books make possible.

Curious Learning.  Curious Learning works with partners to curate, localize, and distribute free open-source apps that empowers everyone to have the opportunity to learn to read. They work to empower users with the resources and tools to activate learning and engagement, from the individual child that wants to learn to read, the parent who wants more for their children, to the teacher striving to help many, the non-government agency working with the community, and the governmental or aid organizations working on large scale deployments. This effort expands the distribution of apps by referring users to the next best app at the right moment to facilitate their path to literacy. Currently, they are working with UNESCO in 20 African countries to reach 100 million children. 

Ferst ReadersFerst Readers' mission is to strengthen communities by providing quality books and literacy resources for children and their families to use at home during the earliest stages of development. Ferst Readers addresses the growing concern of children from low-income communities entering kindergarten without basic literacy skills and school readiness, a preventable problem with far-reaching impacts. The recipe for early school success is simple: start school with strong language and literacy skills. Ferst Readers' recipe for encouraging literacy development is even simpler: ensure that children have age-appropriate books in their home and provide parents with literacy resources that reinforce the importance of early learning and encourage them to read frequently with their children. By mailing a new book every month to enrolled children, birth to five, Ferst Readers is committed to providing early learning opportunities with the hope of breaking the cycle of poverty and illiteracy. They have distributed about 7,000,000 books over the past 23 years (about a half million each year now)!

Room to ReadRoom to Read believes that World Change Starts with Educated Children. It envisions a world in which all children can pursue a quality education that enables them to reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world. Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, we develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond. The literacy programs that they support around the world have served 28 million children and they have distributed more than 34 million books.

United Through Reading. United Through Reading (UTR) unites military families facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud. In more than 200 locations worldwide on land and at sea, United Through Reading offers military service members the opportunity to be video-recorded reading books to the special children in their lives. More than 2 million families have used the United Through Literacy app. The videos allow families to share story time during periods of physical separation. Services can be accessed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through the United Through Reading App. Veterans and their families are also encouraged to participate in UTR. When service members read to children they love and send the video recordings and books home: family morale is boosted; separation-related stress is reduced; family reading routines are maintained; children remain connected to their service members, making family reintegration easier; and children's literacy and language skills develop! 

Canadian Charities

First Book Canada. Over the past 13 years, First Book Canada has distributed more than 7 millions of high-quality age-appropriate books to kids in need who would not have access to books otherwise. Their programs focus on getting books into the hands of children growing up in poverty. The program reaches hundreds of thousands of children each year.

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See what others have to say about this topic.

Kelly Christie Dec 03, 2022 11:38 AM

Hi Tim, thank you for your ongoing thought provoking and informative blog. I have learned much from the blog and the comments. In Canada, I volunteer as a tutor for The Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation at one of their 8 (I think it’s 8) dyslexia centres across the country. I’m in Halifax, NS. Volunteers are trained/certified in the Orton Gillingham approach and in return provide twice weekly, hour long sessions, to two students, for up to three years. It’s no small volunteer commitment! Volunteer tutors have their lesson plans vetted and are observed regularly by mentors. Standards are rigorous. Hundreds of students have graduated from our Centre. Perhaps it didn’t make the list due to overhead costs. So proud of these volunteers! Thank you for this post!

Carolee Dean Dec 03, 2022 12:33 PM

Thank you for compiling this amazing list. Many people are looking at fourth quarter charitable giving, so this list is very timely.

Jenny Skjonsby Jan 18, 2023 07:02 PM

Books Between Kids is an organization in Houston, TX that goes into low-income schools to provide students with new or gently used books at the end of each school year for summer reading. They present the books as a book fair and every student gets to pick 6 books to keep, to build their home libraries. They rely on book donations and fund raisers.

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Best Literacy Charities 2023


One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

He studies reading and writing across all ages and abilities. Feel free to contact him.