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The familiar world we once knew has come tumbling down—replaced by the fear and uncertainty of a rapidly spreading and potentially lethal virus. People are “sheltering in place,” as if this were a live shooter drill in school. Only it isn’t. It’s real and the killer is unseen.

No one is in school. The buildings are closed as are public libraries, museums, and parks. Kids are home. Restless. Anxious. Playing mind-numbing video games over and over like bored tigers pacing their cages.

Kids tune into their not-so-smart phones, computer screens, and the unfiltered cacophony of television. Our young people face the constant assault of the current dystopian narrative: stuff is bad now, it’s going to get worse, everything you know and love is going to be taken from you.

We need to change this narrative from one of despair to one of hope. We need our stories. Our books. The brilliant author Madeleine L’Engle captures it so perfectly:

A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.

Kids Need Books is determined, now more than ever, to connect underserved families with free books: board books, picture books, leveled readers, middle grade novels, young adult literature, and good reading for adults. Inspiring books. Stories that will be our stars. Living fires lightening the darkness of our current crisis.

We will figure out how to make this work. How to get back into the book distribution business while adhering to the protocols of safety and social distancing.

In the meantime there are signs of hope in our community. Yesterday the Bellingham School District started handing out free breakfast and lunches at multiple locations. Today the Bellingham Food Bank begins a new drive-up food box distribution service.

There is light in the darkness. It will only get brighter.

Kids Need Books runs on donations and is part of the non-profit Interfaith Coalition. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation.

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