Book Rich Environments is a tri-sector collaboration between non-profit organizations, national government agencies, and corporate publishers that aims to infuse public housing communities across the country with a vibrant and accessible culture of books and to connect families living in public housing communities with reading-related resources, in service of working to improve opportunities and outcomes for children living in public housing.
Nearly 4 million low-income children are living in HUD-assisted housing across the country. Improving their educational outcomes is essential to improving their life trajectories and launching them towards success. HUD is pleased to serve as a key partner in the Book Rich Environments initiative, to encourage the love of reading and to improve educational outcomes of children living in HUD-assisted housing in participating communities.
National Book Foundation serves as the project lead, with HUD, U.S. Department of Education, the Urban Libraries Council, and the National Center for Families Learning serving as key planning partners. Public housing authorities across the country serve as local partners, implementing initiative components within their community with support from the local public library and other literacy partners.
1. Distribute free, high quality, diverse books to children living in HUD-assisted housing.
2. Engage children and families in the love of reading by connecting them with the ongoing literacy activities offered by the local public library.
3. Build strategic partnerships on the local level, established between the local public housing authority, the local library, and local literacy partners to develop and deliver ongoing community and educational programming.
Major Program Accomplishments
1. Since 2017, Book Rich Environments has distributed over 1.6 million books to children living in public housing.
2. As of 2021, Book Rich Environments works with 43 communities in 25 states across the country.
3. As of 2021, Book Rich Environments receives new, high-quality books from eight major publishers Candlewick, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and Sourcebooks.
4. Book Rich Environments has organized many reading events for young people, including in-person and virtual author visits with prominent authors of young people's literature such as Angie Thomas, Jacquenline Woodson, and Jeanne Birdsall.
How it Works - Local partners participating in Book Rich Environments are pledging to ensure their community is not defined as a "book desert," but rather a place where all families have access to books and reading-related resources. Inspired by research that indicates access to books and reading for pleasure can help improve outcomes for young people living in under-resourced communities Book Rich Environments uses a multi-faceted approach to create a variety of pathways for engagement, resulting in a network of resources and support that infuse books and reading across the entire community.
Book Distribution - PHAs participating in BRE partner with the public library in their community to distribute books. The PHA or library receives a set of high-quality, diverse books, secured by the National Book Foundation, and donated by national book publishers. The books are designated for children who are residents of the local PHA. The number of books delivered to each site is determined by that community's needs and capacity.
Each Spring and Summer, PHAs and public libraries organize and sponsor community events to give away books, celebrate reading, and sign young people up for library access.
Library Engagement - Local libraries engage kids and families in ongoing visits and opportunities. They encourage all children and parents attending the book distribution event to get a library card for ongoing visits, give attendees a tour and explanation of all the resources a library has to offer, and encourage families to continue to utilize the library throughout the year. The library and PHA continue to partner to register families who were not in attendance for library cards and to promote strategies such as mobile libraries in public housing buildings and summer learning opportunities.
Partnership Building – Creating strong local partnerships is critical to ensure continued outreach and engagement of children and families living in HUD-assisted housing. Participating communities utilize BRE as a platform to engage local residents and establish and maintain partnerships among local stakeholders including the staff of the local library, the PHA, local nonprofits, schools, and community organizations committed to supporting literacy.
Measuring Impact - BRE tracks impact and overall success of local efforts. The BRE partners assess impact along a common set of indicators that enable localities to track progress and tangible outcomes.
Click here to learn more about the Book-Rich Environments Initiative. If you would like to be added to the list of potential new Book Rich Environments communities, please contact Andy Donnelly (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the National Book Foundation.
Videos & Presentations
General BRE inquiries, Local-Coalition Building and Webinars
Alicia Maldonado, Senior Consultant
Jordan Smith, Director of Education
Emily Samose, Director, Education and Learning Initiatives
School District inclusion and After School programming
Jocelyn Logan-Friend, Education Specialist
HUD PHA-related Outreach
Maria-Lana Queen, Liaison for Federal Interagency Youth Initiatives
For more information about BRE communications, BRE/Library partnerships, please contact Maria-Lana Queen at Maria-Lana.Queen@hud.gov.
- San Mateo County Libraries ULC Innovations Award for their work with LENA Research Foundation
- Book Harvest Blog—Keep Kids Learning
- HUD And National Book Foundation Work To Promote Reading In Public Housing (National Public Radio)
(6/30/2018 8:13 AM, 4 minutes, Lynn Neary)
AUDIO. The National Book Foundation has partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on a literacy program aimed at getting books into the hands of kids and adults living in public housing. National Public Radio
- National Book Foundation secured donations of 270,000 new, high-quality diverse books for the initiative.
- National Book Foundation created and shipped individually curated book collections for 36 unique public housing communities, which were distributed to local residents during summer book distribution events.
- Piloted an author visit component with New York City Housing Authority
- Coordinated event with National Book Award winner Jeanne Birdsall for a reading and book signing.