Who We Are
Millie's Bookshelf is a 501(c)(3) humanitarian literacy nonprofit organization based in San Diego, CA dedicated to ensuring that displaced people worldwide have access to adequate reading resources. Millie’s mission is to improve childhood literacy and well-being by addressing book deserts in conflict settings.
Who is Millie?
It’s one of the first questions we hear: “Who is Millie?” Millie is a nod to the fearless, curious bookworm of our childhood, Matilda! Thirty years after Roald Dahl brought Matilda to life, she continues to motivate millions of children worldwide to dream big, fight for what’s right, and never lose their sense of wonder. To honor her spirit, our organization bears a common nickname for our favorite reader - Millie. Here at Millie’s Bookshelf, we believe in the transformative power of books: not just as educational tools or something to pass the time with, but as vessels to other worlds that are full of possibility.
Book Deserts and Literacy in Refugee Settings
A growing problem in refugee communities is the presence of book deserts - environments where it is virtually impossible for families to access reading resources. This has a knock-on effect in many areas, including a reduction in childhood literacy, educational attainment, and access to timely health information to make informed healthcare decisions. Our goal is to mitigate book deserts in refugee settings by installing micro libraries that double as Child-Friendly Spaces - a humanitarian term for a space that tends to a child’s psychological need for a safe place to learn and play.
These spaces help ensure early access to reading materials - a critical predictor in a child’s ability to develop pre-literacy skills that assist with language acquisition and socio-emotional development. With humanitarian actors allocating only 3.6% of their budgets to investments in education, there is an urgent need for additional programming in the informal education sector to ensure that every child has a shot at literacy.
Our micro libraries feature 400-600 books in the local language and a variety of educational toys and materials. The collection includes books for each age group, from infants to adults. As a matter of policy, roughly 10-15% of each installation features books that are centered on Millie's core topics: human rights, women's health, healthy relationships, and regional history and culture. The remaining collection is customized based on community interest and the goals of our local partner organizations.
Millie's literacy-focused reading programs are designed to accompany the installation of micro libraries and promote their active use by the community. Our refugee-led literacy programs serve children ages 4-6 and emphasize reading out loud and participating in hands-on learning activities to support children’s emotional and cognitive development. Program participants are taught to recognize and regulate emotions, make color and sound connections, and build the basic pre-literacy skills necessary for future educational success. In addition, each session begins and ends with mindfulness exercises designed to equip children with tools to cope with trauma.
Rapid Response in Domestic Disasters
Disaster knows no borders. Whether it’s wildfires in California, hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, or asylum seekers at the border, the U.S. is no stranger to displacement crises. Many of these situations, unlike protracted refugee crises elsewhere, are temporary in nature and therefore require more flexible solutions. Our Rapid Response Libraries (RRLs) are a scaled down version of our micro libraries contained in a repurposed musician-style “road case.” RRLs are designed for deployment in domestic locations, each containing 50-100 books, floor cushions for reading, comfort toys for children, and a small assortment of toiletries and infant supplies difficult to find in a disaster setting.
Who We Are
Millie's Bookshelf is a 501(c)(3) humanitarian literacy nonprofit organization based in San Diego, CA dedicated to ensuring that displaced people worldwide have access to adequate reading resources. Millie’s mission is to improve…