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Free books for kids - do you have any to give away?

Of all the healthy habits we want our kids to pick up early, reading is among the most important, as it lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning.

We want kids to read everywhere they go, to tote around treasured stories to enjoy over and over and over. But that's hard to do for kids who don't have their very own collection of books.

The Children's Trust and the Center for Literature and Theatre @ Miami Dade College have launched a massive effort to get more books into the hands of Miami-Dade kids.

They are stocking shelves at several locations with new and gently used books that kids can take home - for free. 

They are concentrating on places in low-income areas where families go for services, like public health clinics and doctor's offices, but also public housing complexes, even homeless shelters.

Organizers believe book ownership makes a difference.

"It gives them the feeling that the books are part of their lives in a permanent way, that they can continue to grow this collection, and this is something they can take with them wherever they go," said Lissette Mendez, programs director at the Miami Book Fair International and the Center for Literature and Theatre at MDC.

As mothers, we know how important early reading is. But there is also research to back it up. Consider that nearly half of Miami-Dade's third-graders are not reading at grade level, which increases the chances they will drop out of high school later. 

Organizers expected to need 100,000 books for the first year - but now they expect to double that, says Lissette, whom you may also remember as a founding blogger at MomsMiami. The books are flying off the shelves at a rate of 2,000 a week.

Here's where the rest of us come in.

To meet that demand, the program - Read to Learn Books for Free - needs more books. Moms, business owners, PTA officers, for anyone who can mobilize a book drive, there is a way to help. Here are some of the options:

  • Drop off new or gently used books at a Books and Books store - 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 927 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; or Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave. - or MDC, 300 NE Second Ave., Building 4, 1st floor, downtown Miami. 
  • Buy books for the program online through Books and Books
  • Donate money to buy books. 
  • Sponsor your own book drive with your organization or family and friends.
  • Adopt a book shelf at one of the locations, donating the money to keep it stocked - and have your organization's name on it as the sponsor.

Learn more about Read to Learn Books for Free, including the locations of the shelves, and contact information here