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Book Lovers Unite: Help With Hurricane Harvey Recovery

Cassandra Neace

Staff Writer

Cassandra Neace is a high school English teacher in Houston. When she's not in the classroom, she reads books and writes about them. She prides herself on her ability to recommend a book for most any occasion. She can be found on Instagram @read_write_make

As has happened so many times, the book community has really pulled together to support Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, even before the rain stopped falling. From area bookstores opening their doors to provide respite from the storm, to people reading picture books to each other online, here are a few of the ways that readers across the country have committed to helping out in the days, weeks, and months to come. You can help, too.

Hurricane Harvey Book Club

On Sunday afternoon, Kathryn Butler Mills, a teacher in Katy, TX, was at home, waiting out the storm and bored. Like all of the teachers who found themselves stranded, she started to worry about her students and their families. She wanted to do some small thing to help bring them, and kids like them, some calm in the middle of the storm.

Mills started the Hurricane Harvey Book Club, a group on Facebook, and posted a video of herself reading a favorite picture book. She encouraged others to join her, and as of Tuesday afternoon, the group had grown to more than 12,000 members. Mills posted a follow-up video, saying “This is now a movement. It’s a movement to show people that even in the midst of a storm, that there’s love and there are just rays of sunshine, and that’s what you are for everybody.”

Teachers, librarians, authors, parents, and kids from all over the country are posting videos of themselves reading favorite books. Houston author Coert Vorhees shares the book he wrote for his son following Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Mills encourages people to keep posting videos. She also asks specifically that adults, once they have been added to the group, take the time to like videos and post encouraging comments to all of the young readers. With the group growing so large, it’s not a task she can undertake on her own. You can join the club here.

KidLit Cares Auction 

Author Kate Messner organized an online auction for Superstorm Sandy relief almost five years ago, raising more than $35,000. This auction featured books, art, agent critiques and other book-related goods and services from the KidLit community.

Messner has organized another auction to support Hurricane Harvey relief. Items will be up for auction over the course of the next week. Auction end dates and times will be included in each post.  Bids can be placed in the comments for each item’s post, and winners will donate the final amount directly to the Red Cross. Then, they will forward the receipt to Messner, and she’ll take care of putting all the right people together.

There are more than 200 items that will be up for bid in the coming days, including 10 copies of  Here We Are and classroom/Skype visit from our own Kelly Jensen; a 50 page critique of a MG or YA novel manuscript from author Nova Ren Suma;  Star Wars origami art from author Tom Angleberger; and a classroom/Skype visit from Chelsea Clinton (!).

And if you just want to get in on the drawing for one of 36 hardcover copies of Messner’s new novel, The Exact Location of Home, you can donate $10 or more to the American Red Cross and email your receipt.  Winners will be announced on Wednesday, September 6.

Publishing Companies and Literacy Organizations 

We already told you about the Texas Library Association’s Disaster Relief Fund.  Here are a few other ways that libraries will be supported in rebuilding damaged collections (for full details, click the links):

  • Scholastic will be taking requests from schools and making donations to help rebuild library collections. Teachers in the affected areas will also receive 500 bonus points to help them rebuild their classroom libraries.
  • Simon & Schuster, through their Education & Library marketing department, will be donating 250 “Best of Titles” to public or school libraries damaged by the storm or the related flooding.
  • Publisher’s Weekly covers other efforts that are being made by bookstores, publishers, and literary agents.

For those of you who would like to make your own contribution to relief efforts, here is a list of orgs that are local and will be on the ground, doing the good work. These organizations are targeting their relief efforts on marginalized communities specifically.