Cy-Fair nonprofit Barkley’s Bookshelf gives out hundreds of books to promote child literacy


Only six months after becoming an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Barkley’s Bookshelf has already given over 500 books away to children in the northwest Houston area. The book-based nonprofit hopes to increase that number for years to come.

Barkley’s Bookshelf is an organization that hosts free book fairs for local children. Founder Brenda Polivka, a lifelong volunteer with 25 years of nonprofit experience under her belt, thought of Barkley’s after watching a “Today Show” segment in 2021.

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“A group they interviewed was doing basically what we’re doing, but in another part of the country,” Polivka said. “They were talking about getting books into the kids’ hands to build personal libraries and how many kids don’t have books at home to practice reading during the summer or the holidays or…school breaks.”

Polivka saw an absence in child literacy-based organizations in Cypress and rallied together four passionate volunteering friends from the National Charity League: Strategic Communications Director Carrie Pickell, Operations and Technology Director Lorraine Gray, Treasurer Julie Starling and Secretary Laura den Boer to form the board of directors.

With the five women possessing a combined 100 years of volunteer experience, Polivka said they had a head start with nonprofit contacts and strategy. The team was able to quickly build a website, generate buzz on social media and become a certified nonprofit with a checking account.

During their first book fair with fellow nonprofit Cy-Fair Helping Hands at the CFHH Back-to-School Bash in August, Barkley’s Bookshelf distributed 576 books. Another book fair with Cy-Hope on Sept. 20 saw nearly 100 more books given out to students.

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Although founded in Cypress, Barkley’s is quickly reaching out farther and farther northwest to host book fairs.

“We are doing another book fair in early October with (a Cy-Hope) Hope Center at a different location and then at the end of October will be going out to Hockley to the Boys and Girls Country and hosting a book fair for those kids that live there on the campus,” Polivka said. “So, we’re growing by leaps and bounds and we’re thrilled about this because the more kids that we can reach, the more books we can get in hands, the more kids are going to have those learning skills.”

Barkley’s serves any child who comes to a book fair. Polivka said the original goal was to help children build their own personal library, whether they had somewhere to call home or not.

“Our thought was we wanted to build home libraries for kids, but the more we thought about that verbiage, we stopped a minute and said, ‘You know what? Not all of these have homes,’” Polivka said. “So instead of saying we want to build home libraries that we decided on, we want to build personal libraries.”

Each child who receives books from Barkley’s also receives a tote bag for carrying their books.

The books given away by Barkley’s Bookshelf are donated by the community and all monetary donations are used to buy new books. Barkley’s recently received a donation of over 800 books, all from their Amazon wish list.

Barkley’s checks all donated and purchased books to make sure each child receives a quality product without torn or missing pages.

“These books look brand new, even the ones that are used, with a very high quality standard,” Polivka said. “We want the kids to feel good about what they’re getting, to be proud of the books that they have, and to read them over and over.”

With another event in Tomball planned for the fall and a goal to keep reaching out to the community, Polivka said Barkley’s Bookshelf has nowhere to go but up.

“Everybody wants to help with this,” she said. “This is a win-win for these kids and for the community because in order to be productive citizens kids have to be able to read. Reading rates are down because of the (COVID-19) pandemic, so we’re further behind. We’re trying to get kids caught up or ahead of the game if we can.”

For more information including how to donate, volunteer or organize an event with Barkley’s Bookshelf, visit barkleysbookshelf.org.

chevall.pryce@chron.com



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