Books for the World is a literacy project that puts used books from the United States that might otherwise be discarded into the hands of children in other countries that are lacking in educational resources.

The project was started in 2000 by two Rotarians, one in Texas and the other in Johannesburg, South Africa. These two individuals began talking about a possibility that arose from the fact that Texas schools were disposing of thousands of text books every year and South African schools were desperately in need of books. Within a couple of years, hundreds of Rotarians throughout both districts were involved, a warehouse in Houston had been established, customs clearance had been obtained, a distribution center in Johannesburg opened and countless books were being given to schools, libraries and organizations throughout South Africa. To date, over 1.3 million books have been distributed and the distribution center has had to relocate twice to meet the increasing volume of books.

Today, the project is coordinated by The Second Wind foundation and operates under the banner BOOKS FOR THE WORLD.  The hub of the collection effort remains in Houston, but the project has expanded to several other states including Wisconsin. The clubs in each of the states run their project slightly differently  to take advantage of local resources, but essentially all of the clubs involved collect, sort, box, and ship books to Houston where they are then loaded into sea containers bound for countries in southern Africa, Central and South America, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

The majority of the schools and organizations that benefit from the book project face a grave lack of educational resources, with many teachers saying they have never had books to teach from and many children whom this project reaches have never even held a book, let alone learned how to read it.  The overall goal of this program is to enhance literacy while promoting Rotary’s ideal of international understanding.