AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin-based kids book subscription service plans to give away thousands of books to local families during the extended school closures caused by the new coronavirus.

Literati set aside 3,000 kids books for this week alone. Company employees plan to set up a tent at five Austin ISD schools (one school per day) where parents are picking up free curbside meals for their students.

The schools are:

  • Monday, March 23: Dawson Elementary School
  • Tuesday, March 24: Pleasant Hill Elementary School
  • Wednesday, March 25: Perez Elementary
  • Thursday, March 26: Houston Elementary
  • Friday, March 27: Linder Elementary

Monday, parents stopping by Dawson Elementary in south Austin didn’t expect to drive away with free new books in addition to lunch. “It was a great surprise,” Paul O’Dwyer said.

The AISD parent said his family often goes to the library to find new reads, but with Austin’s public libraries closed and local schools shuttered until at least April, they don’t have that option.

“This was a great alternative,” O’Dwyer said, “and the kids were so excited when they offered the books.”

Literati plans to donate about 30,000 books in all through various programs during the COVID-19 outbreak, and the company is looking for partners locally and nationwide to help distribute them.

“We’re wanting to spread good vibes,” Vanessa Castañeda, Literati’s partnerships manager, said. Potential partners can email her at to learn more.

This week, the company chose to align with AISD’s meal distribution sites to reach families who would most appreciate free, new books for their kids. The titles are designed to spark imagination and to distract young readers from the uncertainty and stress the pandemic is causing.

“We want to give out books about hope and courage and adventure so the kids can feel that during these trying times,” Castañeda said.

O’Dwyer appreciates the opportunity the books provide. “Just finding things to keep our kids engaged is really challenging,” he said. “It’s uncharted territory, but we’re doing the best we can.”