St. Joseph Academy participated in the Books for the World program for the first time this year. (Submitted photo)

Not wanting to discard hundreds of outdated curriculum textbooks, St. Joseph Academy found a great use for them by collaborating with Wisconsin Books for the World to send them to areas where students have little or no access to them.

On Oct. 21, SJA staff sorted Reading Wonders and Everyday Math textbooks at the Oklahoma Avenue School in southside Milwaukee. According to SJA Principal Scott Hanson, he estimates they donated more than 500 of the textbooks geared for grades K5-6.

“We hope this donation will provide teachers in other countries with curriculum resources to help their students learn,” Hanson said. “As part of a Felician-sponsored school, we look for ways to live out our Core Values, one of which is solidarity with the poor, and we think this donation aligns with that.”

Wisconsin Books for the World is coordinated by the Madison Breakfast Rotary Club, Rotary District 6250. The program promotes global literacy and education by collecting used library and schoolbooks from throughout Wisconsin. Books are shipped through the Second Wind Foundation in LaPorte, Texas, to developing countries where they are needed in local schools and libraries.

Books for the World was started in 2000 by two Rotarians, one in Texas and the other in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two individuals began discussing the issue of Texas schools disposing of thousands of textbooks every year and the need for textbooks for South African schools. Within a few years, hundreds of Rotarians 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.

Thom Weiss is the local program coordinator for Books of the World and a member of the Madison Breakfast Rotary Club. He explained that six full semi-truck loads of books are shipped per year, equaling approximately 250,000 pounds of books or 150,000 books. Since Books for the World began, the program has shipped more than 6 million books to developing countries.

“This seemingly large number of books we ship is made up of multiple small donations from all over the state of Wisconsin,” Weiss said. “During 2019, we had 160 different donations from schools, libraries, and secondhand book stores. St. Joseph Academy’s donation will be one of many that will help us improve global literacy and education this year.”

The books are shipped to many of the countries that the British colonized, said Weiss. Because of the British colonization, the countries speak English as their primary language.

“Many children grow up speaking a tribal language, but when they get to school, they are taught in English,” he said. “Some of the countries we ship to are South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Kenya, Pakistan and India.”

The school textbooks needed deal with the subjects of math, science, language arts, international/world geography, international/world history and unused workbooks associated with the above curriculums. They also accept encyclopedias and library texts, such as children’s picture books, novels, fiction and nonfiction, international biographies and international history. To date, South Africa has received the most books, which seems appropriate due to the initial collaborative efforts of Johannesburg and the Rotary district in Texas.

“The project in our area began with a schoolteacher in McFarland who hated the idea of throwing out books that the school no longer used,” said Weiss. “She found the Rotarians in Houston and it went from there.”

The mission to provide books to other countries is very important to the school, Hanson said.

“It is no secret the curriculum needs evolve, especially for a school in its first 10 years of operation adding a grade each year,” he said. “Our school turns 11 this year. Five years ago, our highest-grade level was fourth grade and we had about 175 less students. So, to be able to keep our curriculum updated for our current students and to be able to donate the previous curriculum to schools who may not have anything to work with, it is certainly a win-win.”


If you want to help with financial support and/or book donations:

Financial Need: Books for the World-Wisconsin ships about 10 semi-truck loads of books each year. Each shipment costs approximately $2,500. This is their single largest expense, totaling approximately $25,000 per year.

Checks may be sent to:

Madison Breakfast Rotary Foundation

P.O Box 5524

Madison, WI 53705

The Madison Breakfast Rotary Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 organization. Please indicate “Books for the World” on the Memo line of your check.

To learn how your school can donate to Books for the World, contact Thom Weiss at