Rebuilding Home Libraries
Lost in the Fires

In Q1 2021 Teen Readers Society donated 5,000 books
in partnership with Penguin Random House

During the summer of 2020, the Western United States experienced an unprecedented wildfire season.  Many communities especially in Northern California and Southern Oregon suffered unimaginable losses of homes, structures, and historic buildings. This program, with the generous help of Penguin Random House, allowed us to give 5,000 new books to children and teens who have lost their homes in the fires. The distribution of the books was completed in February 2021. Our program focused on areas and communities that had already been impacted by the pandemic and economic uncertainty.

Overview of 2020 West-Coast Wildfire Season

2020 has been one of the largest and most destructive wildfire seasons in the Western United States. These fires have collectively burned 5 million acres, making it the largest and most active season in California’s history.[1] Five of these fires have already been listed among California’s 20 largest[2] and most destructive[3] wildfires. The state of Oregon reports this season as being one of the most catastrophic, burning over a million acres and destroying thousands of homes,[4] including approximately 3,000 residences in Southern Oregon’s Jackson County. Smoke traveled hundreds of miles[5] from the source of these fires, clouding the skies with ash and creating unhealthy breathing conditions for the millions of people affected. 

The increase of average global temperatures—one of the most insidious features of climate change—has drastically made conditions in the Western United States more susceptible to intense fires such as these.[6] In 1974, U.S. firefighters considered a 12,000-acre wildfire to be a “once in a lifetime experience.”[7] A fire that size is considered small today. 

Why Donating Books Matters

Losing a home is a deeply traumatic event with potentially long-lasting consequences, especially for children and young people. Quick and appropriate community support can mitigate the effects of such trauma and reinforce a sense of security and belonging. Making books available to children and teens is an integral part of rebuilding communities and creating a new sense of normalcy. Research indicates that reading can promote deep relaxation comparable to meditation, countering depression, anxiety, and stress.[8] Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to rebuild the reading libraries of children and adolescents who have lost so much to fires. Please visit our Facts & Figures page for more information.

A Few Words from our Donation Benefactors

Phoenix-Talent School District
Phoenix, Oregon

“We are extremely grateful for this program bringing the joy of reading to our students, many of whom are struggling in the aftermath of the wildfires while also navigating the fear imposed by the pandemic. The mission of Teen Readers Society, to help reverse the declining reading rates among teens, is close to my heart. Now, more than ever, in a world inundated with bite-sized chunks of sensationalism, we all are yearning for the simplicity and comfort of disconnecting from daily distractions and engaging with the magic of stories. I am touched by the Teen Reader Society’s enthusiasm to connect the students of Phoenix Talent School District with Penguin Random House. This is a gift that our students will benefit from for years to come,” 
-Kelly Fogg-Johnson
Language Arts Teacher
Phoenix High School

San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District 
Ben Lomond, California

“We are so appreciative of the generous donation of books being provided to our students. The gift of a book is so much more than the cover and the pages in between.  For the 125 students who lost their homes to the CZU fires in the Santa Cruz mountains, these books will provide an opportunity for adventure, mystery, to learn new words, to read to someone else, to begin building their own new personal libraries, and to let their minds and hearts go to a safe place.  More importantly, these books will always remind our students that others in the wider community care about them and their learning.  Thank you, Penguin Random House and Teen Readers Society,”
-Andrew Lucia
Director of Human Resources
San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District

Quick Link to our Press Release

For a more in-depth look into our donation program, please see our full press release below.