Meet Michelle Wallace From Usborne Books & More, Our Newest Book Drive Partner!
Updated: May 31
Many important efforts and movements begin with a simple question: Do we have the power to make a difference? If so, how?
Around 15 years ago, Michelle Wallace was an intern at Capitol Hill when she saw a speaker discuss the daily struggles of foster care children. “A lot of them don’t have belongings of their own,” she recalled of the speech. “That was the beginning of having a soft spot in my heart for foster care children.”
About Michelle And Usborne Books & More
Michelle Wallace is an independent consultant for Usborne Books & More, like all booksellers at the company. However, for the past six and a half years, she’s also helped with book drives for foster care organizations and Boise hospitals.
It originally started with the Cuddle Bear Book Drive for pediatric patients. Donors give each child a Cuddle Bear set, which includes a book and a matching plush Cuddle Bear. The book reflects on a bear that likes spreading joy, and how to overcome scary feelings – and the set allows them to have their very own Cuddle Bear to cheer them up.
“Then, I found out hospitals had a need for all kinds of books, whether it’s ICU [or other departments],” Michelle said. “They needed books for classrooms too. We wanted to fulfill that need.”
In Utah, Usborne provides books for over 600 children in need every Christmas. For every 100 kids, an enormous bag of books that suits every age group is given, and books are passed around to each. Michelle wanted to see if she could do anything similar for local Idaho foster care children — even for those as young as infants.
How Reading Creates Future Success
You may be wondering why infants need books, or how books make an impact at all. As it turns out, reading books to a baby is one of the most critical developmental gifts you can give them. According to a 2017 study, reading books with babies can boost their vocabulary and reading skills by four years, before a child even starts school. Researchers believe that, as babies form new connections in their brains, books help babies recognize speech patterns, new sounds and words, and more.
Even between ages 4 to 5, the brain is still forming new connections, which is why reading every day can significantly influence a child’s reading and cognitive skills. By putting these books in childrens’ and caretakers’ hands, it makes it that much easier for foster children to get an extra step ahead in life.
There’s no replacement for books, either – conversation simply isn’t enough. In 1992, a controversial study reported that children in poverty hear over 30 million fewer words in conversation than those from privileged backgrounds. However, Jessica Logan, lead author of the study and assistant professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University, says that books have a significantly different impact than conversation. “This isn’t about everyday communication,” she told OSU News. “The words kids hear in books are going to be much more complex, difficult words than they hear just talking to their parents and others in the home.” Besides vocabulary, books offer stimulating concepts, ideas, and story structures that they won’t typically experience in everyday life.
Become A Hero
Although the research is clear, of course, it’s really the passionate people behind every book drive that inspires us, such as Michelle. But even she has her own heros.
“It’s been incredible to see people’s generosity and care [over the years,]” Michelle shared, reflecting on her experiences operating book drives. Even friends who weren’t in a perfect financial situation would pitch in, many having young children themselves. “That’s been heartwarming, especially on social media. That’s not what you see most of the time. It’s more complaining [and] craziness! It’s nice to see true generosity.”
Generosity is a key part of Usborne’s mission, as the first sentence states: “The future of our world depends on the education of our children.” We were thrilled to discover that Michelle and Usborne’s mission lined up so perfectly with our own. Thanks to Usborne’s Literacy for a Lifetime grant program, Usborne will give your donations a 50% donation match for ALL book orders. That means for every book order Fostering Christmas makes for Idaho foster kids, Usborne will match 50% the dollar amount in free books.
If you’d like to participate in our newest partnered book drive, take a look at our donation page and make sure to click the book drive option!
This story hasn’t ended yet – we hope you’ll be a hero in this story, and help create a happy ending for foster kids across Idaho. Thank you very much to Michelle Wallace at Usborne Books & More for helping make this adventure possible!