Giving the Gift of Literacy

Give a Kid a Book program brightens season with reading

Tom Giffey

The seasonal charitable effort by the Friends of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library is summed up pretty well in its name: Give a Kid a Book. Of course, this program, now in its 22nd year, does more than give just a kid a book – it gives lots of kids books. Last year, Give a Kid a Book distributed more than 4,000 new books to children in need in the Eau Claire area, says chairwoman Nancy Sowls.

“... any time we can get a kid to read a book, it helps them in school. It’s giving kids their own book. Having a book is something exciting.” – Nancy Sowls, Friends of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library

The books go to kids in the community – from babies to teens – whose families are struggling to meet their basic needs and may be unable to buy them books at Christmas. The Friends of the Library distributes the volumes through a network of organizations, including the Salvation Army, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Community Table, and others.

“The Friends of the Library feel that any time we can get a kid to read a book it helps them in school,” Sowls says. “It’s giving kids their own book. Having a book is something exciting.” The book that a child receives through Give a Kid a Book may be the only one he or she owns, making the program all the more important.

Give a Kid a Book kicked off for the 2016 holiday season on Nov. 13. Now through mid-December, donors are encouraged to bring new children’s books to the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, 400 Eau Claire St., Eau Claire, where they can be left under the evergreen in the lobby. And if you see the perfect book on the shelf at Books a Million, 4030 Commonwealth Ave., you can buy it and donate it there: The bookstore collects books for the program right at the register. Book donations are also accepted at UW-Eau Claire’s annual Holiday Concert (this year, that’s Sunday, Dec. 4) and come via Scholastic book sales at various local schools.

The program will accept any kind of book for children, including board and cloth books for babies; fiction and nonfiction for elementary, middle, and high school readers; and special items such as bilingual books and audiobooks. The Friends of the Library also accepts cash donations to buy books.

Give a Kid a Book is a great way to introduce your children to concepts such as generosity and charity. Have you children pick out new copies of their favorite books and donate them to the program; they’ll be thrilled to know that other kids just like them will be able to share the joy of reading at Christmas.

To learn more, go to, call (715) 831-5301 or email

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