Posted on November 18 2017
When Kelsey Butler posted a Facebook status last year encouraging friends to donate children’s books for students in need, she had no idea that post would change her life.
Her passion for helping kids improve reading skills began when she was a sophomore at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. As an Elementary/Special Education major, she pulled struggling readers out in the hall to help them independently during student teaching sessions. Butler was shocked to learn that three of the seven kids didn’t have books at home to practice reading.
“I grew up really fortunate and never realized this was a reality for kids,” says Butler. “I thought, ‘There’s got to be a way to fix this.’”
She began purchasing children’s books at Goodwill and stashing them under her sink. This continued for the next couple years. During her senior year of college, another simple idea fueled her passion even more.
“I made a Facebook post telling my friends to declutter their shelves and get as many children’s books as they could,” says Butler. “I thought I could give the books to a school for Christmas." When Butler created the post, she intended it to be a personal Christmas project. To her surprise, she received a lot of positive feedback. Soon, children’s books were stacked on her porch.
“I realized that this doesn’t have to be a one-time Christmas project; we could keep it going,” says Butler. “Then, my mom called and encouraged me to start a non- profit.”
Although starting a non-profit was an intimidating move—she didn’t have business experience—Butler followed her heart. When her dad thought of the name “HomeBound Books,” she knew it could become a reality. "I immediately had the visual in mind," she says.
Now a graduate, HomeBound Books has been Butler’s passion since the very start—but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t faced challenges.
“I personally funded the first three bookshelves, and got a couple grants,” says Butler. “I have enough money to break even, but not enough to actually make any money.”
With help from The Rustic House, Butler hopes to grow HomeBound Books. Together, they created an exclusive candle for the next This Little Light project; $11 of each Sweet Stories candle will go towards HomeBound Books, funding shelving supplies and books.
Although the non-profit is new, Butler is already witnessing its impact, saying that the most rewarding aspect of HomeBound Books is watching kids get excited about the bookshelves.
“Seeing their eyes light up and get excited about reading is really awesome,” says Butler.
Currently, HomeBound Books has bookshelves in five elementary schools and aspires to expand to Nashville (Butler’s hometown) someday.
The most important aspect of HomeBound Books is making reading stress-free for students.
“If children forget to bring the books back, there is no punishment; we don’t want them to feel stressed,” she says. “With funding and donations, we will be able to replace the books.”
In addition to purchasing the Sweet Stories candle from The Rustic House, there are other ways to help HomeBound Books.
Various book drop-off locations are located around the city, including The Chattanooga Market, Feed Co. Table & Tavern, all Lupi’s Pizza locations, Merchants on Main, Good Dog and Winder Binder Gallery & Bookstore.
Growing up, Butler dreamed of becoming a teacher. Although she never anticipated starting a non-profit, she is glad she took a leap of faith.
“People ask me all the time if I’m upset that I’m not using my degree,” says Butler. “But I wouldn’t have found this passion if I didn’t go to schools and get the experiences that I did.”
For more information about HomeBound Books, visit www.homeboundbooks.net.
Photos Courtesy of Kelsey Butler