A new Texas Young Lawyers Association project plans to put more books in children’s hands. Bookshelves in Courtrooms is promoting literacy by stocking shelves in courthouses across Texas with books for children of all ages. The program, TYLA Board Director Kaylan Dunn hopes, will help kids who may be going through a tough time.

“The project’s goal is to facilitate the availability of books in areas frequented by children in courthouses across the state of Texas to promote literacy, provide meaningful activity during a potential time of stress, and allow continued access to books even after a child’s visit has concluded,” Dunn said.

Bookshelves in Courtrooms was inspired by a similar project started in 2016 by Judge Karin Crump, of the 250th District Court in Austin. TYLA President Sally Pretorius, who herself had an unpleasant childhood experience at the Bexar County Courthouse, saw that program and wanted to adopt it to spread the initiative across Texas.

The books are donated to TYLA and range from board books for toddlers to young adult novels. Those gathered have come from TYLA members and their friends and family, social media groups, law firms, and church book drives, among others. Some bookshelves have been installed and others are being installed in courthouses in Fort Bend, Dallas, and Collin counties, with plans in store for expansion of the program in Smith, Tom Green, Menard, Anderson, Austin, Bexar, Howard, El Paso, and Harris counties.

“Children tend to be present in family, CPS, and juvenile courts most frequently, but TLYA is happy to install a bookshelf in any courtroom or courthouse that is interested in the program, as well as provide an initial supply of books,” Dunn said.

The next step is joining with local literacy organizations such as Lawyers for Literacy, Dunn said, to ensure books are always ready to stock shelves as needed. TYLA and its local affiliates are also in the process of reaching out to judges who may be interested in the supporting Bookshelves in Courtrooms.

“If you see a bookshelf in your local courthouse, please feel free to add books or donate them to the court to add when needed,” she said.

New or gently used books can be mailed to the TYLA office, 1414 Colorado St., 4th Fl., Austin 78701. TYLA also has an Amazon Wish List from which books can be purchased.

For more information on the program or introducing/expanding it in your area, contact Kaylan Dunn at kaylandunn@huntonak.com.