Photo: A young reader enjoying one of Judy’s books along with a Be Kind Bear.
When Judy Laufer first started writing children’s books, the most important thing for her was to get them into the hands of young readers. So, shortly after she published her first book, Where Did Papa Go?, which looked at death from a young child’s perspective, she began looking for organizations that would enable her to donate her books and give back to the community.
“I was trying to figure out how to get my books into the hands of kids whose parents could not afford to buy these books,” says Judy. “I thought that there must be programs, and there must be kids.”
At first, she reached out locally and donated books to Hospice of the Valley, Ryan House and Ronald McDonald House charities. Then she figured that there must be national organizations that would be interested in donations and that’s when she found Lucia Wheele, the chapter president for the Pajama Program in Arizona.
The Pajama Program distributes cozy pajamas (Carter’s clothing is one of their major donors) and books to children in homeless shelters, group homes and foster care so that they can have something of their very own. “They only do brand new pajamas and brand new books because these kids never get anything new,” adds Judy.
Judy has been working with the Pajama Program for about seven years and another organization she began donating to nearly six years ago is Kids Need to Read. Kids Need to Read provides books to underfunded schools, libraries and community agencies across the United States. Judy has donated thousands of books over the years and to these organizations, and with the disruption to children’s education from the pandemic, it is even more critical than ever that children have access to reading materials.
“Last year, along with the books, I donated pillowcases and a little stuffed animal, which was one of the characters from Gigglyville (the imaginary town where many of her stories take place), called Be Kind Bear,” says Judy. She found out that some of the kids used the pillowcase to store their belongings in if they lived in a shelter.
“My books are a great fit for them because they cover a lot of social-emotional issues,” says Judy. “For them to have a little escapism, a little bit of humor, and to be able to laugh – it is a luxury for them.”
The newest organization that Judy is partnering with this year is United Through Reading. With United Through Reading, military and veteran families worldwide stay connected by reading books aloud on video during separations and deployments. Children of all ages can settle in every night with their faraway loved ones and read along with the voice recording.
“I reached out to them, and when they explained to me what they do, I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s amazing,’” says Judy. “To be able to give back to the people who do so much for our country, and help their families. (I thought) that would be wonderful.”
The organization handles the recording and distribution, so Judy will ship her books to a warehouse in San Diego, and United Through Reading will do the rest.
“It’s so inspiring when you’re listening to all the bad stuff on the news, being able to see that there are such good people around too, who are doing good work, who are never mentioned,” says Judy. “You don’t hear about the good stuff going on. All the organizations that do such amazing work day after day, year after year.”
With her background in early education, Judy knows the importance of children having access to books at a young age. It not only helps the child avoid remediation as they get older, but also benefits society as a whole when literacy is nurtured.
“It’s been an incredible journey for me,” shares Judy. “I just wanted to make books accessible to promote reading, and it’s been encouraging to see how many great organizations are out there doing such good work at a time when people really need the help.”
Judy has sponsors that enable her to send more books to these organizations. If you would like to be a sponsor or donate to the various organizations that Judy works with, visit these links: United Through Reading, Kids Need to Read and Pajama Program.
Visit Little Egg Publishing to view all of the books Judy has written.