Courtesy of First Book

We take the ability to curl up with a good story for granted. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to books. For the 32 million American children growing up in low-income families, books are rare. In one low-income neighborhood in Washington, D.C., there is approximately one book for every 800 children. But children need books in their lives in order to do well in school and in life. Half of students from low-income backgrounds start first grade up to two years behind other students. If a child is a poor reader at the end of first grade, there's a 90% chance they're going to be a poor reader at the end of fourth grade.

In order to help close the literacy gap, First Book launched Give a Million, a Giving Tuesday campaign to put one million new, high-quality books in the hands of children. Since 1992, the nonprofit has distributed over 185 million books and educational resources, a value of more than $1.5 billion. Many educators lack the basic educational necessities in their classrooms, and First Book helps provide these basic needs items.

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Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

Last month, the Chicago Public Library system became the largest in the country to eliminate late fees thanks to Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot.

While the move, which was implemented October 1, was intended to "remove unfair barriers to basic library access, especially for youth and low-income patrons," it had another positive outcome. Since the removal of overdue fees, along with the elimination of any outstanding charges on people's accounts, libraries across the city saw a surge in the return of overdue books over the last several weeks.

"The amount of books returned has increased by 240 percent…We're very, very happy to have that. … Those books have a value and cost money to buy. We want those assets back. We also want the patron to come back," Library Commissioner Andrea Telli said at a City Council budget hearing, the Chicago-Sun Times reports.

According to a press release from Lightfoot, late fees rarely have the impact they're intended to. "Research from other fine-free systems has indicated that fines do not increase return rates, and further that the cost of collecting and maintaining overdue fees often outweighs the revenue generated by them."

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I've written for the fine people of the internet for more than a decade. At this point, you'd think nothing would surprise me.

I mean, I've had private messages sent to my personal inboxes that would make a sailor blush. I've had people write jaw-dropping screeds in response to articles I've written that shouldn't even have been controversial. I've watched comment sections turn into mob-like madness and have been called every unsavory name in the book.

Sometimes I think I've seen it all—and then something like this happens.

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Julia Foos saw a need in her community, so she decided to fill it.

For the 17-year-old bookworm, the idea that some kids don’t have any books of their own is unfathomable — and unacceptable. When Foos was 14 and a freshman in high school, she read an article about how many children in the Cleveland area don't have easy access to books. That reality lit a fire in her to do something.

"I think that kids who don't have access to books are missing out on opportunities to learn new things, explore different worlds, and increase the use of their imagination," says Foos. "Books can pull you into another world or teach you things you might never have thought of before."

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