Cy-Fair nonprofit Barkley’s Bookshelf gives out hundreds of books to promote child literacy


Just six months after Barkley’s Bookshelf officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, it has already donated over 500 books to children in Northwest Houston. The book-based nonprofit hopes to increase that number in the coming years.

Barkley’s Bookshelf is an organization that hosts free book fairs for local children. Founder Brenda Polivka, a lifelong volunteer with 25 years of community service experience, thought of Barkley’s after watching a segment of The Today Show in 2021.

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“One group they interviewed was basically doing what we do, but in a different part of the country,” Polivka said. “They talked about putting books in the kids’ hands to build personal libraries and how many kids don’t have books at home to practice reading in the summer, vacation, or… school vacation.”

Seeing an absence from child literacy-based organizations in Cyprus, Polivka gathered four passionate volunteer friends from the National Charity League: Strategic Communications Director Carrie Pickell, Operations and Technology Director Lorraine Gray, Treasurer Julie Starling and Secretary Laura den Boer to the Board form of directors.

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With the five women, who have more than 100 years of combined volunteer experience, Polivka said they had a head start with community outreach and strategy. The team was able to quickly create a website, generate buzz on social media, and become a certified nonprofit with a checking account.

Barkley’s Bookshelf gave away 576 books during their first book fair with nonprofit organization Cy-Fair Helping Hands at the CFHH Back-to-School Bash in August. At another book fair with Cy-Hope on September 20, nearly 100 more books were distributed to students.

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Although Barkley’s was founded in Cypress, it is rapidly expanding northwest to host book fairs.

“We’re having another book fair with (a Cy-Hope) Hope Center elsewhere in early October, and then we’re going to go to Hockley in Boys and Girls Country at the end of October and have a book fair for these kids who live on campus,” he said Polivka. “So we’re growing by leaps and bounds and we’re excited about that because the more kids we can reach, the more books we can get our hands on, the more kids are going to have those learning skills.”

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Barkley’s serves every kid who comes to a book fair. Polivka said the initial goal was to help children build their own personal library, whether they have a home or not.

“Our thought was that we wanted to build home libraries for kids, but the more we thought about that vocabulary, we stopped for a minute and said, ‘You know what? Not all of them have homes,’” Polivka said. “So instead of saying we want to build home libraries, which is what we chose to do, we want to build personal libraries.”

Each child who receives books from Barkley’s also receives a tote bag to carry their books.

The books gifted by Barkley’s Bookshelf are donated by the community and all cash donations are used to purchase new books. Barkley’s recently received a donation of over 800 books, all from their Amazon Wishlist.

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Barkley’s screens all donated and purchased books to ensure each child receives a quality product with no torn or missing pages.

“These books look brand new, even the used ones, with a very high standard of quality,” Polivka said. “We want the kids to be comfortable with what they get, to be proud of the books they have, and to keep reading them.”

With another event in Tomball planned for the fall and a goal to continue reaching out to the community, Polivka said Barkley’s Bookshelf can only go up.

“Everyone wants to help with that,” she said. “This is a win-win for these children and for the community because to be productive citizens, children need to be able to read. Read rates have dropped due to the (COVID-19) pandemic, so we’re still behind. We try to catch up with the kids or get ahead of them when we can.”

For more information, including donating, volunteering, or organizing an event with Barkley’s Bookshelf, visit barkleysbookshelf.org.

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