Whether or not you're celebrating Valentine's Day this year, there's another — and, some might say, better — holiday you can participate in on February 14. Valentine's Day is International Book Giving Day, and there's no reason you can't jump in on the charitable, book-nerdy fun. Unless you're a person who hates charity, books, and fun, of course, in which case you probably aren't celebrating Valentine's Day, either.
International Book Giving Day is dedicating to sharing our love of reading with as many kids as possible. To participate, you can give a book to a child you know, or donate a new or gently-used book to a library, hospital, school, shelter, or charity.
But, you might think, don't kids already have books? Actually, no. According to the International Book Giving Day website, "two-thirds of children living in poverty [in the U.S.] do not own books." That only widens the academic performance gap between kids of different economic classes.
Wait, you protest. Don't these kids have books to read in school? What about libraries? Although I'd love to tell you that U.S. schools and libraries were equipped to provide free reading material to all the kids in the areas they serve, the fact is that many simply aren't. Many, if not most, areas in the U.S. are book deserts, where families do not own books, and schools and libraries are under-stocked.
Look, you don't have to do a lot to help a lot with this problem. For less than $20, you can buy one book — or several — to give to a child who needs them. If you're totally out of the good-books-for-kids loop these days, I've got six suggestions below to get you started.
1. The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
Princess Pinecone wants to be a warrior princess, so she asks for a big, strong warhorse for her birthday. Instead, she gets a roly-poly pony who eats and farts a lot. But Pinecone's new steed has big surprises in store for her.
2. George by Alex Gino
The only time George can be her true self — Melissa — is when she's alone in the house, but she desperately wants her mother to accept her trans identity. With help from her BFF, George sets out to score the title role in her school's upcoming Charlotte's Web performance to make her mother see the light.
3. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
This YA novel, in which Love and Death are characters, centers on Flora and Henry: an interracial couple whose love is at odds with the ideals of early-20th-century Seattle. Set against a backdrop of Jazz and aviation, The Game of Love and Death isn't a title you want to miss.
4. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
One of 2015's most-lauded picture books, Matt de la Peña's Last Stop on Market Street follows CJ and his grandmother on their bus ride home from church. Along the way, little CJ's grandmother helps him navigate their economic situation by answering his questions in fun and uplifting ways.
5. Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon
Harriet Hamsterbone might be pretty, but that doesn't mean she makes a good princess. She thinks palace life is boring, and longs for adventure. When her parents tell her that she's cursed to prick her finger and fall into a deep slumber on her 12th birthday, Harriet takes the news a little differently than you might expect.
6. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Abertalli
When a classmate uses Simon's anonymous email to Blue as blackmail, the 16-year-old drama nerd must juggle the risks and rewards of coming out, a lot sooner than he expected. He doesn't want to lose his friends, and he doesn't want to lose Blue. What's a boy to do?