Foods for Others’ partner organization, Books are Food for Your Brain, works to improve literacy for low-income children in Northern Virginia by making sure that children who visit Food for Others have plenty of books to read in their homes.

What is Books are Food For Your Brain?

Books are Food for Your Brain provides every child who visits Food for Others with four books to take home each time they visit the warehouse. It was founded by four retired Fairfax County Public School teachers who spent the majority of their careers working in Title I schools.

“When I was a reading teacher, we gave out books, knowing kids didn’t have them at home,” said Diane Haspell, one of the organization’s founders. “So, once I retired, I felt like I had to keep doing it.”

After volunteering at Food for Others and seeing children in need of books, Books are Food’s founders partnered with FFO to send these kids home with books each time they visit FFO for food.

In April of 2018, Books are Food for Your Brain added a bookshelf to the FFO front office and children began picking out books to read at home. The bookshelf is separated into chapter books, read aloud books, easy readers, and board books to make sure that children get books to fit their reading level.

Since Books are Food for Your Brain began, it has distributed more than 43,000 books. On average, they give out 300-400 books each week. The books are donated by local schools, families, or individuals and by the Friends of Public Libraries.

“We’ve all been pleasantly surprised by how successful this has been . . . there’s a constant demand for the books and they fly off the shelves,” said former Fairfax County Librarian and Books are Food for Your Brain founding member, Pat Gualtieri.

Why is it important for kids to have books in their homes? 

Having plenty of books at home directly increases children’s literacy. It’s important for children to be able to select the books that they want to read and that they share those books with their family members.

According to the US Department of Education, children who have more books in their homes tend to perform better academically and are more likely to finish high school and pursue higher education.

How can you support Books are Food for Your Brain?

You can email booksarefoodfairfax@gmail.com to make a donation of new or gently used children’s books and they will arrange pick-up and drop-off.

The types of books they are looking for include:

  • board books
  • read aloud picture books
  • easy readers
  • chapter books through 4th grade level

For more information, visit Books are Food for Your Brain’s Facebook Page.