St Paul Nonprofit Books For Africa Donates 50 Millionth Book

Before the end of the month, a child in Ghana will receive a book called "Kofi Loves Music," by Artika Tyner.

The book, a story about a little boy's love of music and family, will be the 50 millionth book donated by St. Paul nonprofit Books For Africa to students and people across the continent.

The book will travel from the Twin Cities all the way to Ghana along with thousands of other books.

Over the past three decades, Books For Africa has sent those 50 million books to all 55 African countries in hopes of ending what the nonprofit calls "the book famine."

Minnesota-based world traveler Tom Warth founded the organization 32 years ago, shipping several mailbags of used books out of a church basement to schools and libraries in Africa.

Books For Africa Executive Director Patrick Plonski said many people wouldn't expect the world's largest shipper of books to the African continent to be in snowy Minnesota.

"The reason we're here is because of the people here and their dedication then in helping to build this organization over 30-plus years," Plonski said.

Over time, Books For Africa has maintained a reputation for quality books, and there is still a demand for books of all kinds, he said.

"We do site visits in Africa and it's always a big party when our books arrive; there's a lot of celebrations and a lot of positive vibe," he said.

Over the past five years, the nonprofit has surveyed many of the recipients they work with, who say the books make a large impact on learners.

The organization accepts books for a variety of grade levels and subjects, from preschool to premedicine. Books are sorted and shipped based on a learning community's needs. University-level books about engineering, science and agriculture are in short supply, Plonski said.

As Books For Africa hit the milestone, Plonski thanked the Twin Cities community for helping many people over the years.

"We've been shipping books for 32 years out of the Twin Cities area, and we appreciate the support of this community and allowing us to continue to do this, providing us with the money and the books and the volunteers," Plonski said.