The RED Bookshelf Celebrates 10th Anniversary Providing Free Books to Albany Children

The RED BookshelfThe RED Bookshelf, a nonprofit that has been partnering with the Albany community to provide free books for children at community sites, announced today that it delivered 38,000 children’s books at community locations in 2018 and plans to provide 50,000 books in 2019, an increase of 32 percent.

The announcement was made to kick off the nonprofit’s 10-year anniversary as a significant literacy partner in the City. Book delivery is on an upward trajectory due to broad-based, community involvement, and The RED Bookshelf has a waiting list of 10 sites interested in participating.

Using a unique model, The RED Bookshelf collects gently used children’s books, cleans and mends them with the help of more than 1100 volunteers and offers them on bright red bookshelves at community sites where children already go. Children select the free books, take them home, read them and build their own libraries.

“The idea behind The RED Bookshelf is to get children reading everyday outside of school,” said Rachel Eveleth, co-executive director of The RED Bookshelf, “We know from research that children in low-income families do not have many, if any, books at home, and that books at home are a strong indicator of a child’s success in school as well as on-time graduation.”

The organization brought its mobile bookshelf to 50 community events sponsored by other organizations, in addition to serving 19 stationary sites, during 2018.

Plans for 2019, depending on fundraising from individuals, companies and foundations interested in supporting literacy improvement, include:

  • launching new book delivery sites from the waiting list to expand access to the free books,
  • providing 500 books to City of Albany Summer Camps to help address the summer slide in reading skills,
  • adding four new satellite book mending locations to increase the number of books that can be prepared for distribution,
  • continuing to bring the mobile bookshelf to community events to increase awareness of this program and access to the free books,
  • purchasing new books with people of color as characters and diverse languages to further diversify book choices.

“The generosity of the Albany community, its people and its organizations has made The RED Bookshelf’s success possible,” said Mary Beth Fowler, co-director. “Many thanks to the Mayor’s Office, Albany Police Department, Summer Youth Employment Program, Albany City School District, Albany Public Library, University at Albany, Albany Housing Authority, and other generous funders, host sites and volunteers.”

The RED Bookshelf’s shelves are hosted by public service offices (e.g., WIC, Family Court), public housing community centers, pediatric and family practice offices and schools.

“I think ‘hungry’ best describes how our families view The RED Bookshelf. I think these children have a great need for quality children’s books. We know that the scientific literature proves that the more books are in the child’s home, the better they will do in terms of early literacy and eventually school achievement,” said Stephen K. deWaal Malefyt, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, Albany Medical Center Pediatric Group.

The RED Bookshelf began staffing a single bookshelf in February 2009 with Center Square Neighborhood Association as fiscal sponsor. After proving the model for a year, it began a slow expansion to six shelves through 2015. In 2016, it applied for and was granted 501(c)(3) status and began an expansion throughout the city to ensure all children in Albany have access to the benefits of book ownership. The organization won grand prize for its business plan from the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce in 2016.

To learn more about The RED Bookshelf, to donate or to volunteer, please visit

About The RED Bookshelf

The RED Bookshelf is a 501(c)(3) community literacy program. It collects gently used children’s books from the community, cleans and mends them with the help of volunteers and provides them free of charge at 19 community sites in Albany and through a mobile bookshelf brought to community events. Based on research indicating that books in the home significantly help children to read at grade level, The RED Bookshelf works with community partners to ensure that all children have access to the benefits of book ownership, regardless of income level.