The My Own Book Program was established by the Freeman-Harrison Family Foundation in 1999 to support child literacy and foster a love of reading among the most disadvantaged of New York City’s children, many of whom have never owned a book they could call their own.
Today, the My Own Book program provides field trips for third grade classes in the New York City public schools to Barnes & Noble bookstores where each child is given a $50 allowance to purchase their very own books. The implementation of the My Own Book program is made possible by its partnership with the principals and teachers in the participating NYC schools, along with a cadre of dedicated volunteers, many of whom are retired educators, and other professionals. In the 2013-2014 school year alone, more than 60 volunteers organized bookstore visits for 5500 students in 58 inner-city schools throughout all five boroughs. For many of the children, the books they choose are the first books ever owned and the only books in their homes.
The evidence and recognition of My Own Book’s success has come from many sources, including teachers, principals, parents, the children themselves, and respected national literacy organizations. In 2011, we received the National Book Foundation Innovations in Reading Prize, which honors individuals and organizations that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading.
As of Fall 2014, we are pleased to report the results of an evaluation by a leading independent consulting group showing the positive impact of My Own Book on children’s reading behavior.
Fifteen years after its launch, My Own Book is a thriving enterprise, an independent 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit corporation known as My Own Book Fund, Inc. While there are a range of reading and literacy programs serving New York City’s disadvantaged students, and some that provide free books, My Own Book is unique among programs that promote child literacy in its emphasis on choice and ownership. Our mission and program continue to reflect the premise that book ownership—the act of choosing—creates a vested interest in reading and in books that leads children to succeed academically and socially.