15 Literary Organizations That Need Your Help To Ensure Everyone Has Access To Books

by Kerri Jarema

I've already started to shift my thinking when it comes to those 2018 reading goals. In years past, I've been super concerned about the stats and numbers of my yearly reading, how much I read, and what, rather than the quality the books themselves brought to my life and my work. And that self-push for more intentional reading has morphed into a hope that I can do more to help out some literary organizations and movements this year. Because reading has become—has always been—about so much more than just entertainment.

Now more than ever, the books we read are a movement, a statement, a way to insure that we are exposing ourselves to, and raising up, the stories of diverse communities, of marginalized peoples, and of everyone who wants to move us forward. Below are 15 different organizations that are putting literature and literacy at the top of their priorities list, whether they're pushing for more inclusive publishing or sending books to those in need. Each of these groups will put your donations directly toward programs that benefit literacy across the country, which is something any reader can get behind. Check out their missions, pick the one that speaks to you, and put in some time and money to start your year of reading off right.

Prison Book Program

Prison Book Program provides books to incarcerated individuals, in an effort to support their educational, vocational and personal development and, hopefully, help them avoid returning to prison after their release. The program also aims to provide a volunteer experience that introduces citizens to issues surrounding the American prison system and the role of education in reforming it.

Lambda Literary

Lambda Literary is the nation's leading LGBTQ literary organization, and they support LGBTQ writers and their creative projects. Lambda believes that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer literature is fundamental to the preservation of our culture, and that LGBTQ lives are affirmed when their stories are written, published, and, of course, read.

PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. They champion the freedom to write, and seek to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. With a nationwide community of writers, publishers, translators, agents, and other professionals, and an even larger network of devoted readers and supporters who join them, PEN America’s mission has been being spread for over 90 years.

We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books is focused on supporting and increasing the diversity of books available to young readers. By promoting the inclusion of characters from diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, indigenous, LGBTQ, and other minority communities, We Need Diverse Books hopes to insure that every young reader will be able to find themselves in the books they see on the shelves, with plots and protagonists that they can relate to.


According to Worldreader, there are 740 million illiterate people in this world and 250 million children of primary school age who lack basic reading and writing skills. Books are necessary for the development of these skills, and using technology, curation and fieldwork focused particularly in India and Africa, the group is committed to creating a world where everyone is a reader.

826 National

826 National’s chapters offer a variety of inventive programs that provide under-resourced students ages 6-18 with opportunities to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills. They also aim to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. Their mission is based on the understanding that that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

VIDA Women in Literary Arts

VIDA is a non-profit feminist organization committed to creating transparency around the lack of gender parity in the literary landscape and to amplifying historically-marginalized voices, including people of color; writers with disabilities; and queer, trans and gender nonconforming individuals.

Reach Out and Read

The best opportunity to influence a child's future is in the first five years, a critical window of rapid brain development that does not occur at any other time. Children who hear fewer words during early childhood start school developmentally behind their peers and may never catch up. Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organizationthat gives young children this foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

Girls Write Now

Girls Write Now mentors underserved young women to find their voices through the power of writing and community. The group mentors underserved high school girls from throughout New York City’s five boroughs—over 90% high need and 95% girls of color. Through one-to-one mentoring with professional women writers and media makers, writing and technology workshops, and leadership, college prep, and professional development opportunities, we inspire women to share their craft and empower girls to find their voices and tell their stories.

American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world. Founded on October 6, 1876 Philadelphia, the mission of ALA is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

Pro Literacy

Pro Literacy promotes adult literacy through content development, programs, and advocacy. With the goal of helping global literacy programs increase the quantity and quality of services provided. Their most recent program is in support of Indian grandmothers, part of the nearly 400 million people in India that haven't attended school.

Pajama Program

Pajama Program was started back in 2001 when back in 2001, when founder Genevieve Piturro discovered that the children she read to at a local shelter did not have a caring adult to tuck them into bed each night, let alone a pair of warm, comforting pajamas to change into or a storybook to enjoy before they slept. Realizing that this ritual was missing from the lives of many children all across the country, she started Pajama Program to bring love and hope to them all in the form of a loving bedtime.

Room To Read

Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in low-income countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, they develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond.

First Book

For the past 25 years, First Book has been transforming the lives of children in need by creating equal access to quality education—making everything from brand-new, high-quality books and educational resources, to sports equipment, winter coats, snacks, and more—affordable to its member network of more than 350,000 educators who exclusively serve kids in need.

Poets & Writers

Poets & Writers is is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers. Their mission is to foster the professional development of poets and writers, to promote communication throughout the literary community, and to help create an environment in which literature can be appreciated by the widest possible public.