Kelsey Butler, a recent UTC graduate, has made it her mission to bring reading home. Through HomeBound, the non-profit that Butler started, she is sending books home with kids who wouldn’t otherwise have access.
During a student teacher placement while pursuing her elementary education degree, Butler worked with seven kids in particular as a pull-out reading coach. She asked the students whether they had fun, age-appropriate books at home; three said that they had none.
“That made me so sad, because growing up, we always had a home full of books. And I’ve heard the statistics, but when you’re sitting with kids who are struggling with reading and don’t even have any books at home to continue practicing, it really just hits home that it’s a reality,” Butler said.
She started off collecting books several months ago, buying children’s books from Goodwill on half-price days and hoarding them under her sink. The collection grew until it took over her patio. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with them, but she knew they would come in useful to help kids like the ones she worked with.
“A lot of families can’t afford to buy books, and many schools can’t let their students take books home from the classroom because they can’t afford to replace them if they’re not returned. I understand that, and I wanted to help bridge that gap. I believe every child’s home should be filled with books,” Butler said.
Her first idea was a Christmas project. Butler planned to ask for book donations from people she knew, combine them with her own stash, and give them to the children she worked with for the holidays. When she posted about the idea on Facebook, the response was so enthusiastic that she realized that this could be much more than a one time project.
That’s when Butler realized that she could turn this into a full fledged non-profit organization dedicated to providing books to underprivileged kids. She dreams of one day turning HomeBound into a multi-state endeavor, but for now, she’s starting local.
East Ridge Elementary School was the first school to partner with HomeBound, with Big Ridge Elementary School following after.
“East Ridge and Big Ridge are sort of trial runs. I knew it would be a learning process, and it definitely has been so far. I’ve figured out a lot as I’ve been setting things up, and I’m continuing to learn and improve,” Butler said. “I’m hoping, once I get some feedback, that we’ll have a formula down that we can use with other schools, maybe even other grades, like middle schools.”
Schools partnering with HomeBound get designated bookshelves to place in a prominent spot. The shelves will be filled with books marked with HomeBound stickers, to distinguish them from school owned books. Students can choose any book that they like and take it home for a suggested length of about two weeks, though they can keep the book for however long they want. When they’re done, they can bring it back to swap it out for another one. Afterwards, they sign their names inside the cover of the book to mark their accomplishment.
Initially, Butler had planned for students to take books home permanently, but changed her mind
“How many times are you going to want to reread the same Dr. Suess book? I thought it would be more fun and engaging if they had a chance to get new books when they got bored of the old ones, and hopefully this will keep books circulating and keep kids reading new things,” she said.
Butler still thinks that school libraries are an invaluable resource, but hopes to be able to fill in a gap by providing children with books that they can take home worry free.
“The school libraries have limited resources and can’t afford to lose their books, so books that aren’t returned have a fee. With HomeBound, if their dog eats it, if they lose it, or if they just really love it and want to keep it, there’s no consequence. There will be more donations and we will replenish the shelves when it’s needed,” Butler explained.
Butler welcomes any involvement from the local community. Individuals are welcome to donate books to HomeBound, as well as bookshelves no taller than 4 feet, and can contact Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HomeBound has also paired with several businesses, like Winder Binder and Good Dog, that have placed bins in their locations, and even offer discounts to customers who bring books. You can follow the Facebook page, where Butler posts about business promotions and other HomeBound updates.