My New Year's resolution is to volunteer more this year, so I've been on the lookout for cool and worthy causes to give my time to. If you're an avid reader and writer like me, volunteering for a literary organization is the perfect gig. There's nothing quite as exhilarating as working on and advocating for something you love, and literary nonprofits are something I truly love.
Spreading literature is a truly important cause. There have been thousands of studies showing how reading and writing create positive change in our world, opening doors for people of all backgrounds. From promoting literacy in all ages to encouraging creative writing to making books accessible to all income-levels, there are thousands of areas that need your help.
There are a lot of different ways in which you can help, too. Sometimes organizations need teachers, sometimes they need crowd control, sometimes they need an extra hand in their office, sometimes they need help fundraising, and sometimes they just need some good old-fashioned grunt work. There are plenty of one-off opportunities, and plenty of continuous volunteer positions that you can integrate in your schedule.
Donating money or books to a cause, of course, always makes a difference. But, if you don't have the cash to spare, or if you want to become more deeply involved, volunteering at these organizations can be a great (and fun!) way to make an impact. And if you don't see one that works for you here? Volunteermatch.org is a great resource to help you find the perfect placement.
What are you waiting for? Go out and make a difference.
1. Your Local Book Festival
I can't talk enough about how amazing book festivals are. They bring free, literary programming to the public, allowing anybody to interact with authors and books. They foster great and important conversations. When you go to a book festival, you usually leave with at least five new books you want to read. They encourage literacy for all ages, and many book festivals have initiatives that go beyond the actual date of the festival. They bring new and diverse voices into the spotlight. Plus, when you volunteer, you get exposed to tons of new books, and you may even get to meet a few authors. Find the closest one to you, and pick up a shift. Some big ones: Texas Book Festival, Brooklyn Book Festival, LA Times Festival of Books, Baltimore Book Festival.
2. 826 National and Other Writing Programs
Many cities have great organizations dedicated to teaching writing to kids and even adults. 826 National has chapters in many major cities, but even if yours isn't on that list, some quick googling should find you a similar space. (For instance, Austin has the amazing Austin Bat Cave.) These programs need all kinds of volunteer help, from aiding events to actually teaching classes. Pro-tip: If you want to feel warm and bubbly all over, watch Mac Barnett's TED Talk "Why a good book is a secret door" about imagination and 826 Valencia.
3. Your Local Library
No matter where you are, there's a library near you that needs your help. Not only do libraries provide free books to anyone who walks in, but they also give people Internet access, offer classes, provide educational activities for kids, and so much more. They are undoubtedly one of the most important institutions of our country — and they are powered by their volunteer force. I guarantee you your local library has something they'd love for you to do.
4. Room to Read
With chapters all over the world, the kickass Room to Read organization encourages literacy and gender equality in education on a global scale. It provides books and classes for people all over the world, building agencies and sending literacy experts in where it's needed. Find your nearest chapter and see how you can get involved.
5. Book Drives
Whether you're organizing a drive yourself, or working underneath an organization (Check out Milk + Bookies for example), there are always people who need books. Libraries are always accepting donations, but you can also look out for shelters and organizations who distribute those books directly to people in need.
6. Housing Works
This is one of the coolest initiatives around. Housing Works Bookstore sells donated books and puts the money toward helping homeless people with AIDS. Its store is run almost entirely by volunteers, and it also has opportunities to volunteer on the advocacy side of things, too. Here's more good news: the Housing Works mission is not limited to its bookstore. It has plenty of thrift stores waiting to take any item you're willing to donate.
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