Lets' Be Charitable to Literacy

  • literacy charities
  • 12 December, 2020

Each year, Shanahan on Literacy identifies the highest ranked charities that support book distribution and other literacy-oriented initiatives. These are all 4-star rated programs that are national or multi-regional in scope. The high ratings mean they are transparent in their reporting and spend all or most of the money on their mission rather than overhead. That means if you donate to these organization good literacy things happen for lots of kids. I have no connection to any of these organizations, and please remember your local literacy charities, too (I’m not in a position to consider those). 

We’ll soon be back to providing the best research-based literacy information possible, but for now, let’s remember all the ways that we can contribute to promoting literacy – including through our charitable giving. Be generous, be safe, and have a wondrous and literate holiday.

Links to these 6 worthy charities are on my website year-round: https://shanahanonliteracy.com/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 choice and ownership. Studies show that children are much more likely to read books that they choose. Over a school year, the percentage of Book Trust students reading at grade level jumps from 31 percent to 59 percent. During the past year, Book Trust has served 57,000 children in 21 states – and they have distributed almost a million books in that time.

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 41 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 before held a book. Each book will be read over and over again. 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.

Children's Literacy Initiative.  Children's Literacy Initiative works with educators to transform instruction so that children can become powerful readers, writers and thinkers. CLI envisions a nation where every child has the power of literacy and the opportunity for a lifetime of success. CLI works with teachers to transform literacy instruction in public, charter, and parochial schools to ensure that students can read on grade level. Building a teacher’s instructional expertise impacts student learning over the course of a teacher’s career. CLI’s accomplishes this through a program centered around coaching, workshops, and books. - CLI provides job-embedded, content-focused coaching, both one-on-one and in small groups in the classroom. Coaches provide demonstrations and feedback that help teachers incorporate effective literacy practices into their daily work with students. - CLI delivers workshops and seminars to build teachers’ knowledge of literacy content and pedagogy. CLI’s strategic goal is to increase its project scope by 55% to reach 110,000 students by the 2020-2021 school year. 

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.

Room to ReadRoom to Read believes that World Change Starts with Educated Children. We envision 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.

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. 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! 

Worldreader has designed a reading program to help vulnerable children from pre-K through 5th grade keep reading. The benefits of supporting these children will be felt for years to come. At the touch of a finger, children and their families can access a rich collection of global digital titles anytime, anywhere via any mobile phone. Keep Children Reading allows students to read around the world with 100+ age-appropriate books curated from international and US publishers. Through push notifications and messaging, students will be encouraged to read. After completing key milestones, students will receive certificates or rewards.


See what others have to say about this topic.

Meredith Liben Dec 12, 2020 06:40 PM

What a lovely and well-vetted list, Tim.
Thank you for doing this!
Have a safe and good end of 2020.
Very best,
Meredith and David

Tim Shanahan Dec 13, 2020 03:49 AM

Thanks Meredith... you guys have a joyous new year.

Aletta Sinoff Dec 13, 2020 05:57 AM

Most helpful. I learned about resources I had no clue about. The gift of reading ranks way up there. I shall pass the word along.

Terri Barclay Dec 14, 2020 12:53 AM

Thank you, Tim! I learned much from this well thought out list. I will use this list and will share widely!

Lori Josephson Dec 21, 2020 10:30 PM

Thank you, Dr. Shanahan! Our family has taken to making donations this year in lieu of personal gifts since so many are in need this year and we are fortunate to 'not' be one of those families. Wishing you a safe and hopeful 2021.

Mary List Jan 11, 2021 03:50 PM

Dr. Shanahan,

Thank you for including Children's Literacy Initiative as a worthy charity where good literacy things happen for lots of kids! We are humbled and proud to be recognized alongside the other amazing charities listed.

In Partnership,

What Are your thoughts?

Leave me a comment and I would like to have a discussion with you!

Comment *

Lets' Be Charitable to Literacy


One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

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