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How it Started

Free Books for Kids Town

“What would happen in a rural county if all children had access to books they really wanted for free?”

That is the question that propelled the beginning of Free Books for Kids Town in the summer and fall of 2011. Early that year the New York Times had reported on research by Anne McGill Franzen on the importance of choice in children’s literacy.

She received funding to test the importance of choice in improving children’s reading abilities. She found an unsurprising result. Children who had a choice in the books they received began better readers.

I have a son who is a voracious reader. Not surprisingly, he has access to all the books he wants in his home library because his parents know and appreciate the power of books and book ownership. His friends were not as avid readers—they had much more limited access to books. So I wondered what would happen if books were free for kids in my home county: Warren, Pennsylvania.

My initial idea was to have books crates in local stores full of donated used books. We started that at the Christmas Walk on December 3, 2011. Crates were placed in roughly ten stores.

From that humble beginning, we have learned and developed more effective programs to reach the neediest kids.

About Our Founder

Ruby Wiles

Ruby Wiles has a passion for helping every child, especially rural children, have the opportunity to lead a happy and successful life.

She loves living in a small town in rural America. After living in New York City, she feels blessed to have such an easy life. Its infuriating for her to deal with the elitist attitude of city and urban folks.

After graduating high school she left her small town to see the world – attending University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, working at a church camp in Southern California, then developing church ministries in Seattle and attending seminary in Berkeley, California and Washington, DC.  She served her first call as a Lutheran Pastor in rural North Dakota. From there it was off to serve in The Bronx in New York City, before hearing the call to return to rural Pennsylvania. She relishes the opportunities and potential of rural America.

For the last ten years she has been learning and developing literacy and education programs at the non-profit she started in 2011- Free Books for Kids Town.

She has a special love for picture books—see her list of top ten books. Thanks to her son, Grady, she has a special interest in and knowledge of reaching boys with the power of books.