NCFL joins national Book Rich Environments initiative to eliminate ‘book deserts’

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) is proud to announce that we have joined the Book Rich Environments (BRE) initiative! This partnership is a collaboration between the National Book Foundation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Urban Libraries Council, and the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, across the U.S., 36 housing authorities serve as local partners along with the public libraries in their communities. The goals of the BRE initiative are to increase book ownership; to increase public library engagement; and to promote reading among families living in HUD-assisted communities.

Book Rich EnvironmentsTo achieve these goals, housing authorities and public libraries host festive events ranging from community barbeques to author forums and from story times to back-to-school kickoffs. At these events, high-quality children’s and young adult books are provided to families. For 2018, over 420,000 books have been donated to the BRE initiative by corporate publishers, such as Penguin and Scholastic.

At NCFL, we recognize that the persistent achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers is a barrier that perpetuates intergenerational poverty. The BRE initiative is one way we can help address this issue. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) demonstrates that when students own more books, they perform better on reading assessments. Eliminating book deserts in HUD-assisted communities may assist in closing the achievement gap.

However, books cannot solve the problem by themselves. A long-term goal of the BRE initiative is to establish partnerships between organizations that can provide ongoing educational programming to families living in HUD-assisted communities. NCFL is supporting this work by reaching out to partners from Toyota Family Learning, the National Literacy Directory, and Literacy Powerline. Twenty-nine literacy organizations in 25 communities will be supporting the BRE initiative as a result of outreach by NCFL. These organizations are varied and include well-established non-profits, such as the Fort Wayne Urban League, as well as grassroots organizations, such as Project One Focus in Houston.

These local literacy partners will connect families participating in BRE to educational programming. For example, parents with young children might sign up for home visits and learn more about how to read-aloud with their infants and toddlers. School-age children might go to a local community center and receive tutoring in reading. High school students might be connected to volunteer opportunities where they can read with younger children. The goal is to help families get maximum benefits from the books that they are receiving.

At NCFL, we are excited to join the BRE initiative. We recognize that access to books is key for ensuring that young people become proficient, lifelong readers. Additionally, the BRE initiative is aligned to our mission of working to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families. Follow NCFL on Facebook or Twitter to get updates about BRE book distribution events across the United States.

Learn more about the Book Rich Environments initiative at