By Aswad Walker

Books Between Kids, a non-profit organization founded in 2012 to serve Houston’s at-risk children by providing them with books to build their own home libraries, recently gave away their millionth book to at HISD student at Piney Point Elementary School.

Since 2013, Books Between Kids has been providing gently used books to HISD elementary school children. The number of HISD schools that have benefited from the organization’s generosity has grown to 69 schools this year. And their work has not gone unappreciated.

Even as a math teacher, I know how important reading is,” said Braeburn Elementary School math teacher Clarita Hamilton, during a May 16 visit to her school by Books Between Kids co-founders Amy Barnes and Sandra Ahlhorn. “This is the fifth year some of these kids have gotten books, and now they have a great home library. Books they got when they were younger are now being passed down to their siblings.”

According to the Books Between Kids website (, “About 85% of Houston ISD’s elementary-aged children live at or below the poverty line.  Priorities for these children and their families are food, clothing and shelter – all other items fall into the category of ‘want’.  Research has shown that children growing up in homes without books, where books are considered a luxury, are less likely to complete a basic education than their peers who do have books available at home (University of Nevada, 2010).” Hence, the non-profit’s mission to change this scenario.

Barnes and Ahlhorn started by holding book drives in their children’s elementary schools after they realized how many low-income students do not have books at home. They were then driven to expand their good works to include other schools. Now, at every school served by Books Between Kids, each student selects six books every year which serve as the foundation for their home library, and potentially a new educational trajectory.

Books Between Kids relies on their volunteers to solicit and gather books, sort them by grade level, and help with distribution. They also have a number of community and corporate partners, including BetterWorld Books, The Children’s Fund Inc., and Speedy Printing.