For me, reading and travel are entwined pleasures, as joined in my mind as air and breathing or ice cream and eating. Before I go anywhere, I read about it – books, articles, blog posts, you name it. When I miss a place I have visited and love but can’t get back to, a book is sure to ease my troubled soul (most recently I lost myself in Paris, Paris by David Downie). Books have inspired and informed my travels since I could remember. On my first trip to England at 23, I got off my red-eye flight, caught the train into London, and immediately embarked on a literary tour of Bloomsbury that brought me almost to tears as I stood on Virginia Woolf’s stoop.
I have never bothered to count the number of books in my house, but let’s just say that if I were so inclined, I probably could start a fairly well-stocked lending library. Many tomes are not mine, but belong to the boys. Sometimes I get exasperated by the stacks of books that tumble across the kitchen counter or the floor of their room, but my typical response is not to put them away but to simply stack them more neatly because I know that immersion in reading is what fuels Teddy’s passion for undersea life and Tommy’s love of baseball.
Sure food and water and healthcare are all essential for kids. But I would argue that feeding their brains is equally important. Without the basic skill of literacy, children cannot get an education, cannot advance their own interests or those of their family, village, or country. To be fully participating citizens, kids need books, and lots of them. And I also believe firmly that it is reading that develops are imagination, that lifts us outside ourselves, and makes travel even possible. My children want to go to Japan, Australia, India, and Kenya – places they have never been – because of books they have read.
That’s why I’m so thrilled that this year, Passports With Purpose is raising $80,000 to fund two libraries in Zambia through the charity Room to Read. According to the Room to Read website, 793 million people around the world (that’s one in five adults) are illiterate; two-thirds of them are women. Among the many other things this charity organization has done, it has distributed 10 million children’s books in countries like Sri Lanka and India since the year 2000. That makes the stacks in my house seem like small potatoes!
I’m even more excited to announce the prize I have donated for this year’s Passports With Purpose raffle: A Kindle Fire. What could be a more appropriate prize than this portable library? The latest and greatest iteration of the tablet reader from Amazon includes a 7-inch color touchscreen, a Web browser, free cloud storage, access to over 100,000 movies and TV shows, loads of apps, and, of course, millions of books.
If you already own a Kindle or prefer paper books, you can still participate in the raffle. In fact, from gear to getaways there are lots of chances to win great prizes. Every $10 that you donate gets you once chance toward the prize of your choice. And it’s up to you – you can donate $30 and split your chances among three different prizes or put all in one basket for the really killer prize of your choice. You can even make the donations in honor of a loved one (they make great holiday gifts!). All donations are tax deductible.
I’ve participated in Passports With Purpose since its inception in 2008 and every year the founders – Michelle Duffy of WanderMom, Debbie Dubrow of Delicious Baby, Pam Mandel of Nerd’s Eye View, and Beth Whitman of Wanderlust and Lipstick – have chosen a charity I could get behind, whether it was building a school in Cambodia or a village in India. But this year’s fundraiser may be the nearest and dearest to my heart because it’s about getting books into the hands of people who need them the most.
To browse the other prizes and donate for chances to win, please visit the Passports With Purpose donation page between today and December 16, 2011. And if you feel like helping even more, you might use one of those buttons up at the top of this post to share it through your social media channels. Remember the thrill you felt the first time you checked a book out of the library? What could be a better holiday gift than passing that feeling along?
Fine print: The Kindle Fire, valued at $199, is currently only for use with Amazon accounts in the United States. The winner will need an Amazon account to register the Kindle. Prize will include shipping and the device itself, not a subscription, beyond the first month of Amazon Prime, which is included in the purchase. Must enter to win between November 30 and 11:59 p.m (PST) on December 16 at the Passports With Purpose website. Prize is donated to the fundraiser by Mara Gorman of The Mother of All Trips.