road trip wednesday is a "blog carnival," where ya highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question. they then ask their readers to answer it on our own blogs.
this week's question: what else do you do with your books?
answer: I give them to prisoners!
over spring break, I went on a service trip to boston along a group of college students. twice that week, we spent our nights volunteering in the basement of a church in quincy for the prison books program.
this is how the program works:
prisoners write snail mail letters c/o of a local bookstore stating a little bit about themselves and requesting a certain type of book (most of them request dictionaries, also there's a lot of requests for history books).
volunteers read the letters and go through a library of donated books to pick out one or two that best fit the prisoner's request.
other volunteers (like me!) read the letter again to make sure the request matches the book pulled, pack it up media mail-style, and get it ready to ship.
I'd never heard of a program like this until the service trip, and since then I keep most of my read books in a "donate pile." the next time I'm down in austin I'll take them to the inside books project, which gives books to texas prisoners specifically.
without sounding too corny, the work these types of programs do remind me what kind of power books have. their content is powerful, and the act of ownership is powerful. it is an immensely beautiful thing to say, THIS BOOK IS MINE.
in one of the letters I read, a prisoner asked for a dictionary because he was studying for his GED. the volunteers pulled him a dictionary, as requested, but also a bonus book: aldous huxley's brave new world. brave new world! as an english teacher, I almost broke into tears. brave new world was one of those books I read in high school that made me love, love stories and helped me understand sadness and that the world is larger than myself. I couldn't help thinking as I packed it up what this novel might spur in the mind of a total stranger.