I know a lot of you are shopping thrift stores for us in other states, while others are cleaning off their bookshelves and mailing in books for the first time. The USPS Media Mail rate makes it surprisingly affordable to send us your books, and I'm always amazed at how many people take the time to mail their books. We'd be in trouble without these donations!
Out of respect for your budgets, here are some guidelines that might help you decide which books are worth the postage to send in. Some of these may surprise you - we've learned some hard lessons over the last 2 years, but our goal is to provide books kids WANT to read... not books WE want kids to read.
1) Cover Appeal:
Books with high cover appeal are most likely to be chosen at distribution. Books with colorful, modern covers always get chosen first. When our distribution events are over, we're always left with perfectly good books (many award winners!) that weren't chosen simply because their covers were old-fashioned or drab. Old library books were also passed over by the kids.
Pop culture (current TV characters, African American celebrities & sports figures, etc) and other current children's fiction is very popular. Not so popular: "culturally relevant" or historical types of material. Junie B Jones goes fast, Rosa B Parks does not. Diary of a Wimpy Kid flies out the door; Diary of Anne Frank does not.
Our wish list is posted on left side of this page. If you're familiar with the books, you know what most of them have in common: they're current, crazy-popular, and have great covers.
Here, on the other hand, is a list of series books that were overwhelmingly rejected by students last year. We give these books to teachers so they can identify pockets of students who will read them. I'm warning you: this list is painful to read. If your postage bill or box space is an issue, feel free to leave these out and donate them locally.
Ok - brace yourselves for...
Last Year's (Surprising) Reject List
Great Illustrated Classics
Hardy Boys (chapter books)
History Mysteries (American Girl)
Little House on Prairie
Matt Christopher sports (fiction)
Misty of Chincotegue
Nancy Drew (chapter books)
Sisterhood of Traveling Pants
Sweet Valley High/other Sweet Valley books
We analyzed what these books have in common, and for the most part they fell into 4 categories: 1) Historical Fiction 2) Horse books 3) Old-Fashioned 4) Series books that kids want to read in a specific order
We still take small quantities of these books to our distribution events, but we had way too many last year and ended up bringing most of them back with us. Teachers are definitely able to find students who will read these books with a little coaxing, so this year we'll distribute these books through teachers. For our summer slide program, we choose books that kids are so excited to read, they don't need any coaxing.
I hope this helps. (And I wonder how many of you share my devastation at seeing Little House on the Prairie on this list?!)