Kids Need Books

Kids Need Books hands out free books to disadvantaged Whatcom County Families in the belief that literacy can build a bridge from poverty to prosperity


What We Do

Kids Need Books (KNB) hands out new and gently used books to Whatcom County families. KNB was founded in the summer of 2016 to fight the summer slide—the academic decline commonly experienced by low-income students during their time away from school and books. We soon discovered that local families were hungry for quality reading material and the program evolved into a year-round effort.

Where We Operate

KNB has given out over 96,000 books. Distributions take place at the weekly satellite food banks at Alderwood Elementary School and Christ the King Church, and at other sites, including the Deming Foothills Food Bank, the Agape Project in Lynden (for migrant worker families), migrant work camps, community block parties, school literacy festivals, and after school Latino book clubs.

Who We Are

Kids Need Books is part of the Interfaith Coalition, a non-profit, tax-exempt agency. Interfaith provides free accounting services for KNB and acts as a collection point for donated books.

KNB has no paid staff. Joe Nolting—KNB’s coordinator—taught middle school for 30 years in Alaska and is passionate about reading and literacy. He oversees acquiring, organizing, storing (mostly in his garage), and handing out books. A core group of a dozen volunteers assists with the regular book distributions.

Where we get our books

About 80% of our books are donated by Village Books, the Assistance League, local book clubs, the Friends of the Bellingham Library, and generous congregations within the Interfaith Coalition.

We also purchase books that are rarely donated, including board books for infants, and bilingual books (Spanish/English and Russian/English). We also buy dictionaries and flashcards to teach basic vocabulary and math skills.

What we hope to achieve

One of the primary goals of KNB is to grow the home libraries of low-income families. Research indicates that children who grow up in a home with a library of over a hundred books are likely to successfully complete high school and pursue a college education.

How we impact the community

Recently, a volunteer coordinator from the Alderwood neighborhood stated, “Kids Need Books has fundamentally changed the reading culture of our neighborhood.”


KNB: Closing the Books

Kids Need Books began in the spring of 2016 with a conversation over coffee between Chuck Robinson, Ray Dellecker, Tim Farris, and me. From that initial meeting, KNB grew into a vibrant project that has delivered more than 131,000 free quality books into the hands and...

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Rain Showers and Shower Gifts

Rain Showers and Shower Gifts

It’s late Wednesday afternoon and I am at a large low-income apartment complex with Kids Need Books (KNB). Usually I hand out books here in tandem with the school district’s Food LifeLine project, a kind of nourishment-for the-body-and-mind joint operation, but this...

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Grief Beyond Measure

Grief Beyond Measure

I won't be handing out books for a while. I am grieving the death of my beloved son Ben. This is his obituary: Annie and Joe Nolting sadly share the devastating news that their son Ben succumbed to his 23-year battle with anorexia nervosa. He fought long and...

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“Your book distribution has fundamentally changed the reading culture of the Alderwood

—Alderwood Elementary School volunteer coordinator

“Until last month we were homeless. We don’t have much, but now we have books!”

—Young mother of five-year-old girl at the Christ the King book distribution

“My fifth-grade daughter was way behind in reading, but has caught up and is moving ahead
thanks to the books you kind people have given her.”

—Kendall mother

“Thanks for the books each week. It’s making a big difference in our family.”

—Father of 4 at the Alderwood Elementary book distribution

“Mira, Mamá, un libro en Español! Now you can read to me just like you always wanted!”

—Latino boy from a migrant worker family in Lynden

“I’ve picked up books here for my eight grandchildren and now I’ve started handing them out to the neighbor kids. Lots of kids in our area have started reading. We appreciate what you’re doing.”

—Grandmother at the Christ the King book distribution

“Jacob has been reading books from KNB since he was three. Now he’s in the first grade and is
reading at the fifth-grade level. Thank you!”

—Young mother at the Alderwood Elementary School book distribution

“I will wrap this up as soon as I get home. Now I have a gift for my sister’s baby shower. I am so

—Latina Alderwood mother with new KNB board book

“This dinosaur book is perfect for my 17-year-old special needs boy. He’ll love it.”

—Deming father

“Your group is doing such good work. My grandkids have become strong readers and are doing better in school because of the books I get here every week. Every week for the past three

—Grandmother at the Alderwood Elementary School book distribution

“We read the book over and over. By the time his mama got home from work, he was able to
tell her the names of all the planets. She was so proud of him!” 

—Alderwood father with four-year-old son

“Mama, may we read in the car or do we have to wait until we get home? Please may we read
in the car?”

—Christ the King six-year-old girl


Donate to Kids Need Books

Your donation will help Kids Need Books purchase books that are rarely donated, including board books for infants, and bilingual books (Spanish/English and Russian/English). 

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