FAIRFIELD — About eight years ago, brothers Kyle and Brady Baldwin were just teenagers trying to give back to the youth in their community.
They heard a statistic on the radio that alarmed them: Almost two-thirds of low-income children don’t own a book.
The Baldwin brothers were raised with books. Their parents and teachers always pushed them to read and instilled the importance of literacy in them.
To find out that children, many in their community, have never owned a book was shocking.
In 2006, they took it upon themselves to try to mitigate the problem — at least within their own community.
They got off to a good start with several book donations and financial donations. They attended community events and eventually visited schools, giving away one free book to each child in the hopes of exciting them to read.
The first year, they gave away about 200 books.
Their efforts were greatly appreciated by the community, but it also opened their eyes to how great a need there was in Solano County.
Over the years, the brothers solicited more donations from several publishing companies, expanded their distribution, gained volunteers to help with their efforts and grew their reputation within and outside of the county.
Eight years later, the Baldwin brothers have developed their project into the 501(c)3 nonprofit called My Own Book. In that time, they’ve given away 46,500 books to children in need across the country.
Recently they partnered with the Giants Foundation to give out books to Little League baseball players.
The brothers have also grown up, from teens living in Fairfield to a college graduate and college student living on the other side of the country.
Now that they’re adults, they’re hoping to give the reigns to teenagers.
“We want teens acting as role models for elementary schools (students),” Brady Baldwin said.
Because the brothers live on the East Coast the majority of the year, they rely on teens living locally to visit elementary schools, read to students and pass out books.
The brothers hope to pass on the responsibilities to a local group of teenagers, though they will still help with logistical issues and organizing events.
Though neither Kyle nor Brady Baldwin can see running My Own Book as a fulltime job, they will continue to advocate for every child to own a book.
“When we started we didn’t realize how huge of an issue it was,” Kyle Baldwin said. “We hope we’ve made a positive impact.”
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.