Two metro-Atlanta women have been largely responsible for getting more than two million of books in the hands of children all across the world for the past 40 years.
Former Westminster teacher and children’s book reviewer Kemie Nix established the organization Children’s Literature for Children more than 40 years ago. She realized the textbooks assigned to her students felt dull and boring, even though there was a school library full of books by Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Tomie dePaola, Katherine Paterson and more.
“There were wonderful and exciting children’s books in the school library that the children knew little about,” Nix said. “Children’s Literature was being taught to university students! I wanted to teach it to children — hence our redundant but descriptive name. Our goal is to not only increase literacy using “real books” but to turn children into book lovers who can then choose their own paths in life.”
And so CLC was born. The nonprofit collects, buys and distributes children’s books to children who might not otherwise have access to them. CLC works in countries all over the world, but their biggest recipient of books is Kenya.
“We always connect through individuals, not governments,” Nix said. “For example, the program was taken into public schools in Atlanta’s poorer housing projects. It was observed there by the visiting headmistress of a private school, Mount Kenya Academy in Nyeri, Kenya. She wanted the program and books for her school and for the poor government schools in her community.”
Since 2006, CLC has built 13 libraries, 12 classroom buildings, four kitchens, and installed more than a dozen water collection systems at schools in Kenya.
The organization holds book drives and accepts donations, which are then processed, sorted, and boxed by volunteers. Books destined for their international libraries and projects are shipped by sea, at roughly $4 a pound.
Executive director Debbie Green joined CLC in 2006 after hearing about a volunteer project at Westminster — created by Nix — where volunteers read to less advantaged children on a weekly basis.
“It is a gift to be able to help children,” Green said. “I especially love reading one-on-one with a child and seeing the joy a book and a few minutes of respect and attention can bring to a troubled child.”
Besides enriching minds and imaginations, Nix says, having a skilled reading ability is the master key to open every educational door that interests individuals.
“Children’s books can be beautiful, ugly, scary, calming, happy, sad, hysterical—reading can put the reader in another person’s shoes, take the reader somewhere they’ve never been, and help us understand the world and its people,” Green said.
For the second year in a row, CLC has been nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Lindgren is the Swedish author of the “Pippi Longstocking” series of children’s books. This global award was created in 2002 by the Swedish government to promote every child’s right to great stories and to great books. It is given annually to a person or organization for their outstanding contribution to children’s and young adult literature. Above all, it highlights the importance of reading, today and for future generations.
“Proficient readers will not only be more likely to succeed in academics and future careers, but reading also allows students to escape their own realties and see their dreams come true in books,” Green said. “While current school curricula often result in reading becoming a chore, we aim to introduce the fun and joy of books in order to create lifelong readers. We use books as the gateway to improving the present and future lives of children.”
CLC is always accepting new and gently used children’s books and volunteers for both their school programs and our hospital “reading aloud” programs. Right now, CLC Nix and Green say they need storage space for pending book shipments and sponsors for building projects.
For more information and volunteer opportunities, visit childrensliterature.org.