We’re building stronger neighborhoods together

Page Ahead’s Book Oasis Project

Page Ahead provides new books and reading activities to empower at-risk children.

In Seattle, nearly 22,000 children live in book deserts—neighborhoods where 80 percent or more of homes have fewer than 100 books. That many children would fill almost half the seats at a Mariners game! Research shows that easy access to books in childhood is one of the greatest predictors of future achievement—even controlling for parental education level and income. Having books at home is a crucial part of our society’s fight for equity in education, especially as we work to address the long-term negative effects of the pandemic. To provide more reading material for Seattle's kids, Page Ahead’s Book Oasis project installs, maintains, and refills Little Free Libraries in book desert neighborhoods. Custom designed for little browsers (including shelves closer to the ground that face book covers out), each Book Oasis is maintained and refilled by Page Ahead, providing a constantly refilled pipeline of brand-new, high-interest title for babies through young adults.

Many public libraries are still not open, and many school districts are still not circulating materials. Families in Seattle’s book deserts are clamoring for books to read with their kids, and the Book Oases are providing a lifeline: in the first few months of operation in 2021, Book Oasis libraries delivered an average of 154 brand-new children’s books into their communities every week! Thanks to our purchasing power (Page Ahead is the largest single provider of children’s books in Washington state), we are well positioned to provide this infusion of reading material: it costs us just $3 to buy a brand-new children’s book. A $25,000 Neighborhood Assist grant will purchase 8,333 books—enough to refill each of our 18 Book Oases 10 times! Located near Seattle elementary schools Page Ahead already serves with our other literacy programs, Book Oases further expand these students’ access to books, bolstering their home libraries and increasing book circulation in their communities.

Each Book Oasis book will circulate in the community, just like a public library book, but without a hard return date. The take-a-book, leave-a-book Little Free Library system encourages young readers to try out new books, and regular refills from Page Ahead mean there are always new titles being added. We anticipate that, on average, a Book Oasis book will have a lifespan of at least six months and be read by at least 20 people in 10 households. A $25,000 grant to purchase new books will provide the astonishing equivalent of more than 4,000 YEARS of reading material! (8,333 books x 6 months = 49,998 months, ÷ 12 = 4,166.5!) Studies show that book access early in life has both an immediate and long-term effect on children’s vocabulary, background knowledge, and comprehension skills. As our communities begin to recover from the pandemic, the children in need in Seattle’s book deserts deserve a chance to read—and a State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant will give it to them!