13 Super Simple Ways Readers Can Give Back To Their Communities This Holiday Season

by E. Ce Miller

While giving back to our communities is something we could all be doing a little more of, all year round, the winter holidays are typically when folks think about giving back the most. For book lovers, that might mean making those year-end donations to the literary organizations you love, mining your personal library for any books you can pass along to others, volunteering your time to a bookish local cause, choosing to invest in books that give back, or even just choosing to use your holiday purchasing power to support publishers you believe in. But those are only some of the ways book lovers can give back this holiday season.

In my life, I know that some of the greatest gifts I’ve been given have been gifts of reading: whether that’s been in the form of an actual paper-and-ink book, the discovery of a new Little Free Library on my daily commute route, or even by someone taking the time to read to me when I was younger. (Who am I kidding? I still love this.) And these are the gifts I love to pay that book love forward, too.

Here are 13 totally bookish ways to give back this holiday season — or any time you feel like spreading a little literary love.


Buy Books From Indie And/Or Women-Run Presses

While I love practically all books and the people who publish them, some publishers definitely get a little more love — and publicity budgets — than others. Which is why, if you care about supporting inclusivity and underrepresented voices on your bookshelves, it’s important to buy from a wide variety of presses: the big ones we all know and love, AND the smaller, indie, and women-run presses out there too. This season, consider shopping a little more widely on your holiday book binge.


Get Yourself A Copy Of The World Is Just A Book Away (And Check Out The WIJABA Nonprofit)

What’s so cool about The World Is Just A Book Away is that it’s an anthology and a nonprofit. The World Is Just A Book Away book gathers together the personal, book-loving stories of 60 public figures: Noble Peace Prize Laureates, actors, activists, global leaders, scientists, royalty, and more. The WIJABA nonprofit has built 90 standing libraries worldwide, in addition to utilizing mobile libraries to serve an additional 100 schools — bringing books to over 70,000 children around the world, who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. Consider supporting them — by reading and/or by donating this season.


Start A Little Free Library

I don’t know about you, but every time I see a Little Free Library my day is made. I love sharing my books and borrowing new ones — and I always have a couple of my loved-and-ready-to-pass-on reads available to share, should I stumble across an LFL in need of a few more titles. A fun and easy way to spread some literary love this season is by starting your own Little Free Library — and the organization has everything you need to get started.


Volunteer With Your Local ESOL Program

If you love books, chances are you love words too — and if you love words, then volunteering for a local English for Speakers of Other Languages program might be a great way for you to give back to your community this year. ESOL programs are always eager for volunteers, and you can generally find them at your local library, adult education center, community center, or a nearby immigrant advocacy program. There are also virtual ESOL opportunities, if you can't find one near you.


Donate To Women For Women

Founded by humanitarian, media host, and writer Zainab Salbi, Women for Women International is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides practical and moral support to women survivors of war. Each holiday season, they feature a list of different ways donors can support women around the world (a cause I definitely care deeply about.) Their programs include school fees for girls, literacy training, and more—and they’re all super affordable, from $35 to $200. That's basically a month's coffee budget.


Become A Member Of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts

Since 2009, VIDA has been supporting and raising women’s voices in literature and the larger culture as a whole. To become a member of VIDA, not only are you getting the benefit of joining an awesome community of powerful, literature-changing women, you’re also directly supporting the work that they do — and you’ll get their monthly newsletter, which will keep you up to date on all the badass things going on in the women’s world of publishing.


Get Yourself A Copy Of ‘The Tale of Noel: The Holiday Horse Angel’ written by Kristen Halverson

In case you haven’t noticed, I love books that give back — and if that book happens to give back to horses, even better. Children’s book author and fellow horse lover Kristen Halverson has been donating the proceeds from her first book, The Tale of Josephine Rose, to benefit the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, which supports equine welfare. Now, her second — perfectly, holiday-themed title — The Tale of Noel will continue that mission. A book about hope, never giving up, and believing in miracles, this one is perfect for any young horse aficionado in your life — AND they’ll be thrilled to know their reading is helping horses everywhere.


Join the PEN International Readers Circle

PEN International is a global literary organization dedicated to advancing literature, defending free expression, and fostering international literary fellowship — and joining their Readers Circle is a great way to support worldwide literature this year. With causes like providing teaching materials for indigenous language education in the Philippines, bringing creative writing rehabilitation workshops to male and female prisoners across Uganda, supporting literary workshops for young writers in the shanty towns of Buenos Aires, and so much more, you’ll be making a difference not only to writers worldwide, but to the quality of literature that writers are free to produce in this world. And, donations start at a totally affordable $25.


Support Lambda Literary

Lambda Literary is one of the largest LGBTQ literary organizations in the world, supporting LGBTQ writers and their creative projects and affirming the lives of members of the LGBTQ community by publishing and celebrating stories and writing. Among other endeavors, Lambda Literary offers writing retreats for LGBTQ writers and awards that celebrate excellent LGBTQ writing. Definitely a cause worth supporting this season.


Volunteer At Your Local Library

I don't know about you, but story time at the local library is one of my favorite childhood memories. Plus who doesn't love children's books, and the kiddos who read them? But that's only one way you can support reading in your own community — most local libraries have plenty of need for book-loving volunteers, from the literacy and adult education programs they offer, to after-school programs and bookish events or day camps for kids.


Support Girls Write Now

Based in New York City and supporting program participants from at-risk communities and under-funded public high schools in New York, Girls Write Now is a nonprofit organization that mentors young women and encourages them to develop their creative writing skills. And, there are plenty of ways to give: you can donate funds, you can become a mentor yourself if you live locally, or you can support their efforts by spreading the word. They've got tons of information on all of the above on their website, if you're interested.


Start A Book Club Somewhere There Isn’t One

Making a difference in the world doesn't always have to start globally — and it doesn't have to be daunting either. A great way to make a positive difference in the lives of readers (or hey, even soon-to-be-readers) around you is by doing something you'd already be doing anyway: reading. Starting a book club for your community is a great way to build relationships with neighbors you haven't met yet, find common ground with people you didn't think you could, share difficult ideas and perspectives, and set the stage for a more inclusive (and more book-loving) community.


Support The Mission Of We Need Diverse Books

We need diverse books MORE THAN EVER right now — and maybe if some people had read more diverse books as children the world would be a little less messed up than it currently is. We Need Diverse Books is a nonprofit run by children’s book lovers, with the mission of promoting the inclusion of children’s book characters from diverse communities of racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, indigenous, LGBTQ, and other minorities, in order to ensure that every young reader will be able to find children's books featuring plots and protagonists relatable to their own lives.