SALT LAKE CITY — During his career in the publishing industry, Brigham Young University graduate David Miles saw that many of the books he was helping distribute were out of reach for those who needed them the most — so he and his wife, Stephanie, decided to do something about it.
“We both felt this desire to do more than just make books," David Miles said. "And that’s what got us down the path of the book-for-book promise.”
The book-for-book promise is the aim of Bushel & Peck Books, the publishing company David and Stephanie Miles founded in 2018 after David left his job as a publishing director at Familius. They plan to donate one of their books to a child in need for every one of their books that someone purchases.
As the Mileses began researching this idea, they found there was a huge need for children's books across the world, including in the United States. For example, in low-income U.S. neighborhoods there is only one book for every 300 children, according to the Children's Literacy Foundation.
The Mileses could see that a lack of books could lead to a lack of literacy skills, and the statistics of what happens to children with low literacy skills are stark: Two-thirds of children who aren’t at reading level by the fourth grade will either end up on welfare or in jail, according to the One World Literacy Foundation.
“There’s a really high correlation between early success in education and success later in life,” David Miles said. “If we can get books in the hands of kids early on, we can help promote a love of reading, confidence in reading and hopefully propel them for more success in education after that.”
And it’s important for children to have books of their own, not just ones they can borrow from libraries. Miles said the summertime is often called a “book desert” for kids because their access to libraries is limited when they’re not in school.
“There’s also something to be said for owning a book … to give kids things to be proud of and own and keep in their bedroom,” he said.
So how will they have the funds to donate the books? Currently, they are seeking to fund the initiative from their home in Fresno, California, through Kickstarter while David Miles does freelance design work and substitute teaching, and Stephanie Miles works with children who have special needs. They aren’t planning to earn a salary from Bushel & Peck for five years, because what’s more important to them is ensuring they can donate books to children who don't have them.
Additionally, the Mileses plan to work through different nonprofits to distribute books to children who need them. Some donate the books through schools, others such as the Pajama Program and Project Night Night provide books, pajamas, blankets and stuffed animals to children who are displaced and in need of a more solid bedtime routine. The Mileses are willing to spread their contribution to literacy as wide as Africa with some international nonprofits, and as close as their own neighborhood book drive.
“We’ll work with as many as we can so we can cover the bases and reach as many kids as possible,” David Miles said.
But it's not enough to just get books into the hands of kids — the Mileses also want to ensure that the books they publish will teach children good principles.
“If you have one chance to give kids a book that they can own, what kind of book would you give them?” David Miles said. “We want to give them something of value that can inspire and encourage and help them through life. We really believe in changing the world, making it a better place, so our books will have all these important, tangible values that can really help kids.”
They hope that their upcoming 2019 titles will do just that — including one that they will release this fall. “50 Real Heroes for Boys,” by writer and retired family therapist Christy Monson and with illustrations from 35 different artists, tells stories about real-life heroes Jackie Robinson, Jim Henson, Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt and 46 others.
“We need to help boys understand what being a good man is all about because Marvel movies aren’t giving them what they need,” David Miles said. “We need to give them good role models and show them there are lots of men who lived good lives and were able to make the world a better place.”1 comment on this story
They also want to help girls understand that they deserve respect and are powerful, Miles said, so another book they’ll be launching this year is called “Yes You Can!: 1,000 Women Who Proved That Girls Can Do Anything.”
Ultimately, the Mileses hope to be a force for good in the world.
“I feel like we can be that change, to help children go against the grain and be better,” Stephanie Miles said.
And maybe, David Miles hopes, they’ll even be able to help transform bedtime into a time for learning.
“If we can weave these principles and values into that quiet personal time," he said, "we can have an opportunity to teach and do so powerfully."