My Own Book: Sharing a Love of Reading

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My Own Book: Sharing a Love of Reading

United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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A non- profit organization run by teens to spread the love of reading to less fortunate K-3rd grade children by reading aloud and distributing new books nationally.

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What is the primary problem your venture is trying to address and how are you addressing it (or planning to address it)?

Low income children on average have no more that two books at home, many have none compare to high income children who have close to 200 books according to a study by Dr. Rebecca Constantino. We are addressing this problem by going to less fortunate schools and neighborhoods, enlisting teen volunteers to read an engaging story aloud, tell about the public library and then letting the children pick a brand new book. We add a bookplate to each book with the child’s name on it to make the book truly their own.

Project Description

A non- profit organization run by teens to spread the love of reading to less fortunate K-3rd grade children by reading aloud and distributing new books nationally.

Unique and different

My Own Book is unique because not only are giving away books but we are reading to the children, telling about the public library and promoting literacy. In addition, our program is unique because it was started by two teenagers, is teen run, and as a result our teen volunteers become leaders whom the children look up to as role models. We also involve the community in every aspect of our program from book drives to special events like our Reading is Sweet Gingerbread House Auction. We are a small organization and are able to adjust to situations while still making a big impact. We believe in teamwork, collaboration with the community and communication.

Project plan

In the next six months we are putting on several major events. Our first event is a' Sharing the Love of Reading Coast to Coast Day.' On the National Day of Service we are enlisting volunteers in twelve states from CA (where Brady will be) to RI (where Kyle will be) to host a reading event in each capitol city. In addition we are having a 'Reading is Sweet' Gingerbread House Auction to raise money and awareness of our program. We have also started a Reading Buddy program at several schools where kids in grades five and six will read to K-third graders and let them choose their very own book to take home. We are also hosting a 'Family Reading Night' at a local elementary school. We will have community heroes read aloud and help us distribute books.In addition we are continually growing our volunteer base and spreading our program nationwide.


We have a lot of successful partnerships! Our first grant was from Youth Venture, which helped us become organized, and goal driven. We’ve reached out to the community and developed a partnership with a local bookstore (The Storyteller) where we used to be taken to buy books as little children. We were members of the Youth Board for the local paper and as a result have been featured several times in the newspaper. We met the California Superintendent of Schools on an airplane trip and started corresponding with him for ideas. We are members of boy scouts and 4-H and have enlisted other members as volunteers. We read the newspaper and hear about an opportunity and send a letter. We became a partner with the Center for the Book (affiliated with the Library of Congress) by writing to them and developing a relationship. We volunteered at the library and got to know the staff who has helped to support our program. We have made a point to meet and develop a relationship with our Mayor, city council members and school board members to promote our program.


To date we have given out over 12,700 books to less fortunate children but the real impact is that we have given these children a love of reading and our volunteers have gained life skills


Over 12,000 children have benefit as well as our numerous teen volunteers who have gained skills. Our volunteers gain community service hours, public speaking skills, leadership, and self-confidence by reading and interacting with younger children. Also, research shows that the single best thing to encourage reading is reading aloud to children.

How do you engage and impact the community?

We engage and impact the community through book drives, helping less fortunate children and families and utilizing volunteers. Service clubs and newspapers have given us a forum to speak about our program, schools, clubs and businesses have run book drives, adults have donated money and books, and teens have volunteered skills and time. Each spring we run a My Own favorite Book Coloring Contest throughout our school district. We invite all k-3rd graders to draw a picture from their favorite book. We then display the entries at the public library and at downtown merchants. We spread the love of reading, not just to less fortunate children, but to their families and throughout the community. Our program gives folks pause to remember and be grateful for the books they do have, and encourages them to spread a love of reading by donating books to less fortunate children.

How do you measure this impact?

We measure the impact by the number of books we give out, the test scores of the schools we continually visit, and the joy of the children on our return visits.


We continue to need more books, volunteers, and enthusiasm to continue the program. The good news is that the program is like a snowball rolling down a hill gathering momentum. The more events we have the more enthusiasm we generate which leads to more books and volunteers. At almost every event we have we seem to meet someone who wants to get involved and help with the effort to share a love of reading.

Financing source
(or how do you expect your initiative will be financed)

My Own Book is financed primarily through donations. We get a lot of books donated by a local bookstore, authors, and publishers. In addition, donors, businesses and service groups supply some funding. We also apply for grants to help with costs. In addition we run a wreath and produce business that we use some of the profits to offset costs.

Aside from financial sustainability, how do you plan to grow and sustain your project?

We plan to grow and sustain the project by developing more partnerships with the community to have book drives, and encourage volunteers. We have contacted scout troops and 4-H groups to encourage them to get involved with our program. We are working to get My Own Book chapters set up with energized volunteers across the nation. We have set up ‘how to start a chapter’ and put it on our website for others to follow. In addition, we are adding educational links to our website with teens reading stories aloud for children to listen to at home.

Finance details

-Money raised and/or in-kind donations: $6490 in monetary donations and grants, and over 8,000 books donated.
- Number of people on your team and their roles:
Co-founders: Kyle and Brady Baldwin (we organize events, solicit donations, inspire volunteers and to make sure program remains high quality. We also handle publicity).
Adult Mentor: Barbara Mallon (encourages us with enthusiasm, writes letters of recommendation).
Major Teen Volunteers: Javier and Gerry Mendez, Montae Langston, Sarah and Lindsey Doolittle (Run events, recruit other volunteers).
Partners: Kiwanis Club of Fairfield and Suisun, Rotary Club, Center of the Book, The Storyteller (financial/in kind support), Fairfield-Suisun Library system.
* Please see our “Sponsors and Supporters page on our website ( a complete list of our 75 supporters.
Grants won: Youth Venture , National Education Association , and Northern California Children’s Book Seller Association, Tide Foundation, Target.

Creative funding

We write to all the children book authors, illustrators and publishers that we can find on the web and ask for donations. We also speak to service clubs and tell them about our program in hopes that they will support it through book drives or donations. We write letters to the editor about our program, which has led to articles about it and donations. We also use unique events to draw attention and funding to our program. In addition, we’ve worked at developing a partnership with our library system to host events and promote our program while we promote reading.

Other non finance needs

We need volunteers. The more volunteers we have the more books we can give out. We need design help. We’d like to make t-shirts to better spread the word about our program. Our biggest non-book expense is copying- making copies of our bookplate and fliers. We’d love to partner with Staples!

The Story

We started My Own Book because we love books. Years ago, at summer school, the librarian gave books out to each child in the class. For many of the children, this was their first chance to have a book of their very own. This was surprising to us. We later learned that a study done in Los Angeles by Dr. Constantino with about 40 families from low- and high-income areas found that the low-income area elementary school children on average had no more than about TWO books at home (many with none), while the high-income area children had close to 200! We wanted to make a difference. Initially Kyle organized a Reading Day at the public library for 4-H members. On this day, 4- H members built bookshelves, attended a Read Aloud Workshop, and made books on tape for the pediatric ward of the local hospital. Through the generosity of The Storyteller bookstore and 4-H members hundreds of books were donated to a shelter, as well as books and books on tape for the hospital. It was a good start but we wanted to do more. In the spring of 2006 we started My Own Book to bring top quality new books to less fortunate children. My Own Book has been awarded grants from the Northern California Children’s Book Association, National Education Association, and Youth Venture. Through these grants, community book drives, and donations they have been able to collect books for children. Our mission is to spread the love of reading to other children. To date, more than 12,700 books have been read and donated to less fortunate children.


We have earned the Dale Earnhardt Leaders Award, are both Eagle Scouts and have earned all 121-merit badges, are platinum stars in 4-H and county all-stars. In addition, we were recently featured on the cover of American Profile magazine. On September 11th this year we were selected participate in ServiceNation’s Summit in New York as Young Leaders.

Broader context

My Own Book relates to the broader youth and social change movement because it gets teenagers interested in the problems in their communities and involved in carrying out solutions to the problems. It also encourages teens to become leaders which is a great starting place for them to create positive change.


As Brady finishes high school and joins Kyle at college we hope to further develop My Own Book nationally by getting more volunteers and chapters set up. By the time both of us finish college we’d like to have the program be self-sustaining, and oversee the program as a whole, finding a new hands on leader for the program. As our lives continue to change and develop we’d like to further develop the program and be a part of the board of directors and have new, younger leaders join to run the organization.

What is your age?


How did you hear about this competition?

We are Youth Venture team members!