Each year, Toys for Tots distributes an average of 18 million toys to 7 million less fortunate children during the holidays with the principal goal of delivering a message of hope that will inspire youngsters to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.
Best known as a Christmastime charity, Toys for Tots also provides assistance outside of the holidays. One of the programs employed throughout the year is the Toys for Tots Literacy Program. Sadly, nearly 1 in 4 children in the U.S. grow up without learning to read – creating a learning differential that perpetuates a continuous cycle of poverty. While distributing toys to underprivileged children in over 800 communities each year, we discovered the largest barrier to childhood literacy was access to books. So, in 2008 Toys for Tots partnered with The UPS Store to create the Toys for Tots Literacy Program, and together distribute an average of 1.5 million books each year.
The Toys for Tots Literacy Program offers our Nation’s most economically disadvantaged children direct access to books and educational resources to enhance their ability to read. This program not only brings the joy of reading to these children, but also serves as an important tool in breaking the cycle of poverty.
In 2020, schools across the country were forced to close their doors early due to the Coronavirus exacerbating the ability of children to read at grade level. Many schools continued their school lunch program by bussing lunches to children in their homes in low income communities. Toys for Tots reached out to many of these Title I funded schools and provided books that were delivered to over 120,000 children in April and May. Toys for Tots, through our Literacy Program, stands ready to support hard hit communities throughout the year by providing books to less fortunate children to help achieve educational parity.
Since the Toys for Tots Literacy Program launched in 2008, The UPS Store network has raised and donated millions of dollars to purchase books for children in need. As a result, the Toys for Tots Literacy Program has distributed nearly 42 million books to children across the United States.
Literacy Facts & Figures:
• It is estimated that the cost of illiteracy to business and taxpayers is $20 billion per year. (United Way, “Illiteracy: A National Crisis”)
• 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read. WriteExpress Corporation. "Literacy Statistics." Begin to Read. Accessed April 16, 2014.
• Children who aren’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school. Donald J. Hernandez, Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation; Center
• There are an estimated 15 million children in the U.S. living below the federal poverty threshold. National Center for Children in Poverty
• In low-income neighborhoods, the ratio of books per child is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children. Neuman, Susan B. and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: 2006, p. 31
• “Access to books and educational material is the single biggest barrier to literacy development in the United States. If we can solve the problem of access, we will be well on the road to realizing educational parity…” Susan B. Neuman, Ph.D. University of Michigan, Center for Improvement of Early Reading Achievement