With libraries, community centers and schools closed, children who don’t have access to e-books and other electronic resources want books more than ever. To address this need, The Seattle Public Library has worked with more than 65 community partners to distribute more than 13,000 books to children in locations ranging from food banks to community organizations to tiny home villages. 2,500 of those books are in world languages including Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, Tigrinya and Vietnamese.

“As part of a focused equity initiative associated with our annual Summer of Learning program, we are getting books into the hands of the children who need them the most,” said Lauren Mayer, Children's Librarian at the Central Library. “Many families have unreliable access to the internet and digital resources, and now, due to COVID-19, have reduced access to physical books. Distributing books that reflect children’s experiences and interests is a response to these converging inequities.”

The Library always distributes free books to children as part of its summer program, but this year, 100% of the books are targeted for children wo are furthest from educational justice, including children experiencing housing instability and living in low-income households.

Children’s and teen librarians are working with community partner organizations to select the books. The Library delivers the books to partner organizations, which then distribute directly to children and families that they serve. The response has been very positive.

“The families have been so excited to receive the books,” said Joanna Tarr, children’s advocate at the Broadview Shelter & Transitional Housing Program, which received 120 books from the Library. “The kids have been really happy to select their books and the families who received the books in Russian, Arabic, Japanese and Spanish were so thrilled to have books in their native language.”

YouthCare, which serves youth and young adults experiencing housing instability, is another book distribution site. Holly Williams, in-kind specialist at YouthCare, said that the books engage youth at a crucial time, when their activities are limited.

“This donation came at a really great time when youth had been spending a lot of time inside,” she said, adding that teens plan to start a book club at various housing communities. Young residents were able to give input on which titles were selected.

“Having young people read about individuals, places and situations that are similar to theirs helps them to see that they are not alone in the struggles they face,” said Michael Cable, Youth Advocate at Catalyst, a YouthCare housing program for youth ages 18-21 years old.

Other partner organizations distributing books include Asian Counseling and Referral Service, ARC of King County, Compass Housing Center, Denny Park Apartments, Estelita’s Library, Jackson YouthCare, High Point Seattle Housing Authority, Lake City Collective and Seattle Indian Health Board.

The annual Summer of Learning and its book giveaways are possible because of donor support to The Seattle Public Library Foundation. The Library will continue to work with community partners to distribute books to prioritized youth and families throughout the summer. 


With a theme of “Every Day is Earth Day!,” The Seattle Public Library’s Summer of Learning 2020 encourages reading and activities around science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Reading challenges - Set your summer reading goal with help from the Summer of Learning reading log, which you can download from the website or pick up at Seattle Public Schools meal sites. The children’s reading log is translated into 8 languages. Middle and high schoolers can try for bingo with the reading challenge card at spl.org/TeenLibraryChallenge.

STEAM learning - The Library's Kids YouTube channel is regularly posting interactive videos that encourage kids to tinker, explore and learn at home all season. Find how-tos on birdwatching, magic, poetry and more.

Story times - Parents and caregivers can also find virtual story times at the Library's Kids YouTube channel and live-streaming several times a week on Facebook.

Early learning packets: Parents of pre-readers can download a 16-page Learning at Home activity guide for early learners, which comes with alphabet and animal cards, and is available in eight languages. It’s available for download now and printed versions are being distributed to families through community partners.



More details about the Library’s Summer of Learning 2020 programs are available at spl.org/SummerofLearning. Seattle Public Schools students can access all digital Library resources, including thousands of free e-books, through the Library Link partnership with Seattle Public Schools.

Adults can also get in on the summer reading fun. Download your Book Bingo card at spl.org/BookBingo to start filling in your challenge squares.

The 2020 Summer of Learning is sponsored by The Seattle Public Library Foundation, The Burke Museum, Seattle ARTS and Creative Advantage.

All physical locations of The Seattle Public Library are currently closed in accordance with public health guidelines, but returns are now being accepted at some locations. Find out more at spl.org/RoadtoReopening.