Post offices shredding children's books - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Post offices shredding children's books

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CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Free books that are supposed to go to children all across the state aren't making it into their hands, and the reason will surprise you.

Local post offices are destroying the books, which come from the governor's popular Books from Birth program and are paid for by tax dollars and donations from stars like Dolly Parton.

Every month, children across the state wait with anticipation to open their mail boxes and find their literary prizes inside.

"We do it for the love of literature and the love of children," said Elizabeth Black, with Books from Birth in Montgomery County.

But many of the books will never make it, because they end up at the wrong address. For years, the U.S. Postal Service agreed to set aside dozens of undelivered books until a volunteer could pick them up, because the foundation wasn't paying to have them returned.

"The family has moved, books are not forwarded," Black said.

But post office officials now say holding the books costs them money, so they're enforcing a long-standing policy to shred returned items instead.

"It seems like it would be more beneficial and quicker to toss books in a bin than it would be to have someone shred them, but apparently that's not the case," Black said.

The postal service says other businesses pay extra money to have mis-addressed items returned, but book foundation volunteers say those extra fees would put them under.

"Unfortunately, financially, we could not afford to do that," Black said.

It boils down to a fight between the government and the non-profit over rules, logistics and money. The end result is children who want to read and books they'll never get.

"It's very unfortunate that reading is such an important skill and that something like this is being done," Black said.

Officials said they simply can't play favorites, so if the group wants the books back, they must pay the fee just like anyone else.

Volunteers for the program say the situation will only get worse. They used to update their database each time a book went to the wrong address. Now, they'll never know, so they'll just keep sending them and more books will wind up shredded.

They also worry donors will bail out, knowing the books may not end up in the right hands.

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