Cleveland’s Own: Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank

In this edition of Fox 8 Cleveland’s Own, Matt Kaulig had the pleasure of learning about the Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank from Co-Founder & Retired Executive Director Judy Payne.

What started as a small endeavor using small book boxes around the community has turned into an incredible operation that provides free books to children in Cleveland and the surrounding area. Judy’s passion for getting books into the hands of children all across northeast Ohio is contagious. 2 out of 3 low-income kids don’t own a single book. The Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank is changing that. To volunteer or donate, visit their website today.

Watch the Video

Read Along with the Transcript

Cleveland’s Own August – Kids Book Bank – powered by Happy Scribe

Each month, Kaulig Giving and Fox 8 will highlight people, organizations and charities making a difference in Northeast Ohio. It’s time to celebrate Cleveland’s Own!

Hi! I’m Matt Kaulig. This month on Cleveland’s own. I’m thrilled to highlight the Cleveland Kids Book Bank. This amazing organization has worked with over a thousand partners to distribute more than 2.6 million free books to kids all across Northeast Ohio. Let’s learn more about the Cleveland Kids Book Bank.

Hello, Judy. Thanks for having us here at the Cleveland Kids Book Bank. It’s great to be here. So can you tell us a little bit about what you do and how you do it?

Well, interestingly enough, we started out simply by putting little free libraries in Cleveland neighborhoods, because what most people don’t realize is that two out of three low income kids do not own a single children’s book. And so our goal really was to get books into the hands and homes of kids, starting with little free libraries, which was great. Kids went to those little free libraries. They grabbed the books. But in this case, they didn’t have books to give back. And so the books would fly out and they were always empty. So, I turned to the fellow co-founder of the book bank, and I said, hey, we need to find an endless supply of books. And that’s just what happened. Starting in 2016, we partnered with an online bookseller. We’re able to bring in hundreds of thousands of books a month that were otherwise being shredded. Now, our books come from online booksellers and the community. The community has been so generous in donating their gently used books. They come to the book bank. They get sorted, packed by volunteers, and then, they go out to the community for distribution.

All right. So when you say it started out as a small, free little libraries, like, what do you mean by that? I’m envisioning like, little stores..

Little bird houses, little little kiosks.


But again, we couldn’t keep them stocked. Once we came up with the idea of creating a central repository, thing’s exploded.

So what is the impact of getting books in the hands of children?

What many people don’t realize is how important it is for kids when early brain development is happening, for them to hear words. Lots and lots of language. What better way? What better tool? Than having books in the home and being read to. And the interesting thing is that a child who lags behind in kindergarten often stays behind. So getting books out when kids are young is critical.

Well, I’m sure it’s been really hard during this pandemic not only to collect the books, but to distribute them. So what are some of the things that we need to know about that are happening right now?

Matt, the hardest thing was when we were closed, when we knew that kids were at home and desperately needed the resources that we normally make available to them. Our hands were tied. We couldn’t provide them. So when we opened up, we were elated. We reconfigured our space so that we could safely sort our books. Our volunteers could be socially distanced. We continued to need more books and we’re getting along. I think the most challenging thing is that so many of our partners have gone virtual. Yeah. And so we’re having to find new folks who can help us get the books to the kids.

So what’s been the impact?

You know, we used to give out between 60- 65,000 bucks a month, but I doubt will come anywhere near that this month.

So close, though..

We’re pivoting. We’re doing what we can because we’re passionate about this.

So, Judy, how can people get more involved with the kids book bank?

They can donate their time by going to our website and following the link that says volunteer. They could donate their books. Again, the website has a list of locations where they can drop them off. And of course, we always need financial support.

You’re like St. Judy. I want to call you St. Judy!

Somebody called me the fairy book mother! (laughs)

You know, it’s amazing. I mean, we’re sitting in this big warehouse and you’ve done all these amazing things. It hasn’t even been five years. Right.?So, really appreciate your time. And it’s it’s great to talk to you!

To learn more about how you can help go to AND to nominate a person or organization to be featured on an upcoming episode of Cleveland’s Own visit – Make it a Great Day!