Back-to-school season is here, which means that parents have been buying supplies for their kids to use in class. But while many families are spending more than ever during their school-related shopping sprees, teachers are often forced to pay out-of-pocket for basic classroom necessities — an unfair financial burden to some of the most underpaid professionals. But fortunately for Baltimore teachers, there’s a literary lifesaver: The Book Thing. This nonprofit has served local residents since 1999 and continues to play a vital role in making Baltimore’s classroom libraries what they are today. It’s one of many nonprofits helping teachers buy books for their kids.
How Local Heros Support Our Classrooms
On average, Americans read around 12 books per year. But, as any bibliophile knows, books (especially textbooks) don’t always come cheap. Government spending on classroom necessities has dwindled in recent years, while teachers are expected to pick up the slack. A survey released last year by the National Center for Education Statistics found that more than nine in ten educators user their own money for classroom supplies, spending an average of $480 a year. And for many of the teachers working in disadvantaged areas, gaining access to literary works can be more difficult — and even more important for their students.
Global retail e-commerce websites — like Amazon, which started off as a way to quickly obtain affordable books — are expected to double their sales between 2016 and 2020. But for Baltimore teachers, The Book Thing is a much more valuable resource. It’s been a major part of residents’ lives for 20 years now and even supports teachers from all across Maryland. That’s not surprising, considering that all of the books are free — and you can take as many as you want, with no due date.
With its sprawling square footage and floors made of concrete (the most commonly used manmade material in the world), The Book Thing may not look like a literary oasis. And, to be sure, there’s no real inventory to reference like you’d find at your local library. Less than 30% of warehouses are efficient, and while it’s true that this warehouse is run by volunteers and the books are sorted only by general category, no one seems to be complaining. Executive Director Bonnie Hoppa makes no promises that The Book Thing will have always the exact books teachers need, as their inventory is determined solely by donations; however, when Hoppa took over as director from founder Russell Wattenberg, the donations policies were amended in an attempt to ensure visitors would benefit from enough variety.
For years, The Book Thing has made a mission of putting “unwanted books in the hands of those who want them.” Recently, the Book Thing has been overloaded with donations (a good problem to have), but they are seeking donations within specific categories outlined on their website.
In cities all over the country, local nonprofits and volunteers step up during the back to school season to provide supplies to the kids and teachers who need them most.
With a little research, you can probably find several such organizations supporting your local school district. There are also national nonprofits that fill this need. Thanks to the Internet, helping teachers buy books has never been easier.
Helping Teachers Buy Books: How To Get Involved
If you’re looking to support teachers and kids as they begin another year of learning, check out one of the organizations below.
The Kids In Need Foundation and the School ready Supplies Program
Backpack drives are a common method of supporting low-income students and schools. The idea is simple: volunteers fill up a new backpack with all of the pencils, notebooks, folders, highlighters, and craft supplies that kids need for a great school year. The School Ready Supplies Program connects corporate sponsors with local schools and volunteers, helping thousands of kids get back to school with the tools they need to succeed.
Adopt A Classroom
According to the nonprofit Adopt A Classroom, “92% of classrooms have students whose families cannot afford school supplies.” We know that teachers often pay out of pocket to support these kids, and now, you can help. Adopt A Classroom connects “Sponsors and donors to teachers and schools locally, nationally, and by area of interest.”