Bags of Books

Every book counts!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
52 26

Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

2001

Where are you located:

Location: Voorhees, NJ 08043
Camden, NJ 08015, 08104, 08102
Lindenwold, NJ 08021
Trenton, NJ 08610
(West) Philadelphia, PA 19139, 19104
(North) Philadelphia, PA 19121
Philadelphia, PA 10129
Seattle, WA 98117
New Orleans, LA 70113
Los Angeles, CA 90023
San Diego, CA 92101
Wilmington, DE 19801
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Dallas, TX 75237

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

https://www.facebook.com/everybookcounts/
www.bagsofbooks.org
https://twitter.com/Bags_of_Books
https://www.instagram.com/bagsofbooks/

Date Started

09/01/2011

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

In elementary school I learned about the dreaded educational summer slide, the loss of learning skills students experience over months when classes are out, which disproportionately impacts low income students. I researched and found that reading books can reverse the summer slide. As an avid reader I couldn’t fathom not having a home library. When I learned that children who lived just 20 minutes away lacked access to books, I had to find a way to help, so I founded Bags of Books. All children deserve an equal opportunity to obtain the resources they need to succeed in school and life! When I set up my first “pop-up” store and saw the smiles on the students’ faces as they selected free books they wanted to read, I knew I made a difference! Children tell me our school visit is the best day of the year. Hugs and thank you notes from kids and teachers inspire me to grow my organization.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

43% of kids live in low-income homes and often lack access to age-appropriate books. Without books, children cannot succeed and dream. 23 states spend less on education than pre-recession-79% of 4th graders from vulnerable homes don’t read proficiently. Poor education is directly linked to future poverty, unemployment, illness, and crime. Help stop this cycle by promoting literacy, eliminating book deserts, and advancing educational equality!

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Since 2011, Bags of Books has collected gently used and new children’s books from pre-K through high school level. These collections occur in local communities, on college campuses, and in companies as part of their social compact to promote corporate responsibility. Manuals and marketing materials are provided to those conducting collections to assist them with the process. Collected books are then transported to organizations who help children in need including schools, community centers, and homeless shelters. Next, volunteers use a manual Bags of Books manual to sort the books by age level and then set up fun “pop-up” stores where children are permitted to select a bag full of free books to take home to kick-start their own home libraries! Some of the books are also donated to under-resourced classrooms, school/community center libraries, and family literacy nights.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

What happens when volunteers join us? MAGIC! SMILES! HUGS!

(1)Grassroots Volunteers (any age) set up book collections in their hometowns to help underserved children. Initially I set up a Facetime call explaining how to run a successful book collection at schools, religious centers, or workplaces. (2)Corporate Partners: Once a company signs on, I provide them with a manual/marketing materials. Most companies collect year after year! (3)College Partners: Regularly pitch to colleges to host campus-wide staff book drives; partner with student groups to run collections by providing them a manual.

Once the above partners collect books, I arrange for a school/non-profit in need to pick up and sort the books, and host a distribution event. Many who collect, then volunteer at our “pop-up” stores too! Volunteers also inscribe inspiring messages in books and decorate personalized bookmarks.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

We treat underserved children with dignity and create a fun experience! Our “pop-up” store plays upbeat music, provides each child with a new bookbag/shopping bag, and invites them to shop for a bag full of free books of their choice. Most book charities give one book to a child - we give a bag FULL of books. Most charities give pre-selected books to kids - we LET the CHILD PICK BOOKS THAT INTEREST HIM - sports, mysteries, hobbies, science - they take home books they WANT TO READ! We dance at our events, save books from landfills, operate with NO FUNDING (although it’d be great to have some!).

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

1. HELPED THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN ACROSS US, AND EVEN THE WORLD: Collected/donated over 135,000 children’s books in 7 states (TX, PA, NJ DE, CA, LA, WA) and 3 countries (Bosnia, South Africa, Fiji). Currently, in talks to expand to 8 other states, DC, and several other countries. Books donated VALUED at approximately $405,000.
2. The 135,000 primarily gently used books were saved from landfills! A GREEN project!
3. RECRUITED THOUSANDS OF VOLUNTEERS: Donated, collected, sorted, transported books; created marketing materials; drafted manuals for operation; attended distribution events.
4. DONATED $1000 in prize money to Page Ahead (Seattle)
5. PRICELESS IMPACT: Promoted literacy, enabled underserved children to kickstart home libraries, provided books to school libraries, engaged youth from around the world to volunteer, spurred thousands of hugs and smiles from children worldwide!

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

(1) Campaign seeking international ambassadors to launch collections/distributions in all 50 states and around world.
(2) New collections currently planned in West Virginia, Illinois, Florida, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Oklahoma, Wash. DC, as well as other countries.
(3) Setting up collections with new corporate partners including some hotel chains who have committed. Continually pitching to national/international corporations.
(4)Since the University of Pennsylvania campus-wide staff collection was so successful (yielded 8,000 books), we’re now partnering with other college campuses. The University of Michigan Ginsberg Center is planning a fall collection.
(5) Looking to expand our work with other non-profits who share similar mission.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

Bags of Books has operated for 7 years with no funding, just donations from a Rotary Club, transportation companies, and companies providing bags! For the past 3 years we’ve been invited to work with Wharton students as one of their clients as they assist us to create a scalable business plan, develop marketing materials/brand ourselves. We’ve worked with 60 Wharton students and are invited back this fall to gain additional counsel of business students. To scale Bags of Books we'd greatly benefit from additional resources including: (1)Technical advice to further develop our website, (2) Social media advice to expand our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram marketing and outreach to collection partners, (3) a new computer to manage operations!

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

As Peace First national fellow, I believe that working together to solve injustices is critical to the future of our world! We've already partnered with Urban Promise, Page Ahead, Tree House Books, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, BBYO, International Maccabi Games, the KIPP National Charter Schools and Love Letters for Literacy. Classmates and teachers at area schools have always collected and helped sort books for local distribution events. The majority of the events over the years are in the Camden and Philadelphia region, so I rely on lots of local support. My family has been integral to Bags of Books’ success from the start. My sister, Jordan, and family have assisted me in counting, sorting and distributing books for the past 7 years. My mother has helped me with logistics and marketing. I’ve met many young changemakers all across the country who share my passion for “making a difference;” we often collaborate by sharing ideas and putting them into action. I pride myself on always asking for help! I have also spoken nationally to motivate young people to become changemakers! I'm always willing to pitch my cause and find ways to collaborate to create greater good!

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Word of mouth

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Malcolm Asher, ArtPass

Evaluation results

26 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 84%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 12%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 4%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 88.5%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 7.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 3.8%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 84.6%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 11.5%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 3.8%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 4.2%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 4.2%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 84.6%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 11.5%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 3.8%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

52 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Mamoudou Bah
Team

Wow! This is amazing Alexa Grabelle ! It's a blessing project, I am in great awe due to your understanding of the importance of reading and knowledge. I would be glad to support this project all the way. I hope you can expand internationally one day so that the youth in third-world countries, such as my home country Guinea, will have access to such necessities. You could also hold programs and workshops to teach youths to possibly write books and explore being an author. That way they could write books and donate to other kids to learn from. That would be a huge ripple effect. Good job!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you so much, Mamoudou, for your kind words and support. Your ideas are fantastic, and I will most certainly consider them as I continue to expand my efforts on a global scale. Thank you again.

Photo of Ariyan Miller
Team

Hey There Fellow Changemaker,

Congrats on moving to the next phase. I wishing you the best of luck ! & I am sending love and light to all the positive things that you do.

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you, Ariyan. Your kind words mean so much to me. Thank you for all of your Changemaking efforts as well.

Photo of Danielle Snyder Potter
Team

What an amazing program!! I can tell that you’re an outstanding person with a kind heart. Bags of Books is a noble idea that will benefit any community that it becomes a part of. I definitely see it going global in the future. Keep up the good work!!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Danielle, thank you for your support of Bags of Books and your kind words. I hope to expand as much as possible as I continue to scale the work of my organization.

Photo of Barbara
Team

As a book lover, I think this project is so important for our youth! Thanks for being so passionate about making a difference! The idea of children without having their own books is so sad! Good luck on spreading this project to all 50 states!!!!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Barbara, thank you for your kind words. I am so glad you recognize the pressing need for increasing childhood literacy and fostering a love of reading from a young age.

Photo of Wendy
Team

AMAZING WORK!!! Can't believe you have been doing this for 7 years! Just WOW!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Wendy, thank you so much!

Photo of Ryan
Team

Great job Alexa!!!
You have helped so many children!!!!
You are a true Changemaker:)

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you so much, Ryan :)

Photo of Steve
Team

What's especially neat about this project is its gradual expansiveness and scaling up (of activities, commitment, and number of people favorably impacted) over a number of years (seven, I believe I heard in the video) and across numerous diverse states and communities. To me the duration and steady growth of the idea AND its ongoing real-life implementation mean that CHANGE is actually happening every day because of one person's vision, willingness to try something new, and natural ability to inspire others to participate in something bigger than any one person -- all for the greater good!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you so much, Steve. I intend to continue my service work into the future and make even more change in our world. Thank you for believing in me and the mission of my organization, Bags of Books.

Photo of L.V.
Team

Great videos. Really cool to see your project in action and the reactions of the children when they get the books you donate to them.....Keep up the good work!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you. I appreciate your kind words and support. The reactions of the children inspire me to continue to grow my work. Every book counts!

Photo of Martin
Team

Very inspirational. It's amazing how many different organizations and schools you have worked with over the years. Keep it up.

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you, Martin. I hope to continue my established partnerships with schools as well as partner with additional schools in need in the future.

Photo of Martin
Team

Alexa, you are a genuine change maker! Love your goals and hope you reach them!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you so much, Martin!

Photo of Hannah and Zoha
Team

Hi Alexa, Zoha and I are the co-founders of HER and were very intrigued watching your video. You have an excellent sense of the impact of books on children's lives and are addressing the need here in the United States in a creative way. We are impressed with your network support across the country. We also collect books through book drives and fundraisers to support libraries for underfunded girls schools in Pakistan, Morocco, and hopefully Liberia. We would be keen to know if you might be interested in working together to collect books for an international project. We may be building our next libraries in Liberia. We have a potential host country partner as well as an organization that may help us ship the books. All we need is books. What are your thoughts about collaborating? We would love to explore possibilities.

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Hannah and Zoha -- your project is wonderful and inspiring. Let's definitely arrange a phone call or email and discuss collaboration opportunities.

Photo of Lisbeth
Team

What a fun way to promote literacy! I'm very impressed with what you've accomplished already. Best of luck on your expansion efforts!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you, Lisbeth!

Photo of Marcia
Team

This is really a FANTASTIC idea!!! As a teacher I know that, kids who read become kids who DREAM and ACHIEVE!

BOOKS = SUCCESS IN LIFE!!!

I LOVE that you started doing this work at such a young age. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you, Marcia. Literacy is truly critical to student success, far beyond the years of schooling. Every book counts!

Photo of Danielle London
Team

This project is not only a great way for kids to learn how to read, but it is also an amazing opportunity for them to have easy access to books that they enjoy! I think that this project has a lot of potential to spread to many different places throughout the world. Great job Alexa!! :)

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Danielle, thank you so much for believing in my potential and supporting the mission of Bags of Books!

Photo of Mia P
Team

This is an amazing program run by an outstanding person with a kind heart. Bags of Books is a brilliant and noble idea that will benefit any community it becomes a part of. I would 100% recommend that this program be taken nation-wide.

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Mia, thank you! I hope to reach more communities and grow the impact of my work as I expand nationally.

Photo of Michael
Team

Keep plugging away and making a difference in your community and across the country. I am beyond impressed that you started this huge undertaking when you were in elementary school. Good luck spreading across the country. You really are a Changemaker!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you, Michael. I hope to continue to grow the impact of Bags of Books and create additional positive change in underserved communities.

Photo of M.C.
Team

You provide lots of great detail that really paints a picture of what Bags of Books accomplishes

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you!

Photo of Bryce Dershem
Team

This organization, compared to other charity organizations, is particularly amazing! It offers a unique way to aid underprivileged communities - by promoting literacy. Furthermore, it does so in a likewise unique way. In particularly, by allowing children to choose their own books, this charity offers students feelings of dignity, respect, and choice. This distinguishes the organization from others and illustrates its amazing practices. This organization is truly amazing! I advocate others to offer their full support for this organization and its advocacy.

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Bryce, thank you so much for your kind words.

Photo of Brandon Goldstein
Team

This project underscores the need for increased childhood literacy in the United States and around the world, and the effect that this initiative has is incalculable. Furthermore, the expansion of this program without substantial funding or adult oversight proves that young minds can make a substantial impact on society. I look forward to seeing how many more kids can be positively influenced in the future. Great job Alexa!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Brandon, thank you so much for your kind words. With the expansion of my efforts, I hope to address the need for increased childhood literacy in as many communities as possible. Every book counts!

Photo of Omar Varela
Team

I think that there is a strong sense of commitment in what has already been done, Alexa. I find it absolutely amazing that this organization has already been up and running successfully for seven years without funding.

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you so much Omar!

Photo of Meagan Warren
Team

Looks like we are doing similar things! Feel free to check out my 501c3 Books For Bedtime! I love that you give away bags of books!

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you, Meagan. Your work is incredible. I would love to collaborate sometime.

Photo of John
Team

Great project Alexa! Seems like you are already making a difference, and I hope you continue to expand your operation and help to promote additional education and literacy.

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you so much John! I intend to expand as much as possible to impact more and more students in need.

Photo of Andi
Team

What a wonderful creative idea. It's awesome that you stuck with it for 7 years. Children really do need books to succeed in school and in life.

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you, Andi. I truly believe that books unlock countless opportunities for students.

Photo of https://www.facebook.com/GirlScoutG Haidar
Team

Hi Alexa, this is a great project! My project, the Party Project also works with low-income, homeless youth in my community. Peace First is a great organization and helped my fund my project too :)

  https://network.changemakers.com/challenge/tmochangemakerchallenge/community-review/the-party-project

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you so much Leah! I just checked out your project, and I am so impressed. I would love to collaborate and share ideas.

Photo of Dean
Team

135,000 Books! WOW! Keep up the good work

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you, Dean. As I always say, every book counts!

Photo of Ellen
Team

great work - hope you reach your goal to expand to all 50 states

Photo of Alexa Grabelle
Team

Thank you, Ellen. I am working hard to expand Bags of Books. I have calls scheduled for the upcoming week with changemakers from new locations. I cannot wait to work with empowered teens across the globe to multiply Bags of Books' impact.