What Got Us Here, Won’t Get Us There

A Message from our Founder

I used to tell people I was a “social entrepreneur.” I think they thought I sold drugs. Equipped with this wisdom, let me try to more simply state exactly what it is I’ve been doing for the last six years.

In 2011 I began designing what has since become the 501(c)(3) nonprofit DIBS for Kids. DIBS is a take-home book program attempting to address the fact that over 60% of students growing up in poverty don’t have a single age-appropriate book to read in their home. We offer schools software technology that supports teachers to send lots (like lots) of books home with kids in high-poverty schools to take home every night.

In writing this post I decided to take the time to actually reflect on some of the accomplishments DIBS has had over the past six years:

  • I no longer work alone, and no longer work out of the attic-turned-bedroom of a house. We have an amazing Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and a full-time team of AmeriCorps VISTA members who have come to Omaha and foregone higher-paying jobs to support DIBS’ Mission. And we have an office. Two of them actually. One for working, and one for storing the books that this generous community has bestowed upon us as we work to then deploy them into the schools we support.
  • We’ve gone from serving 25 families in 2011 to serving nearly 1,000 families as of August 2017 (See “Students Served” graph…).
  • We moved beyond an Excel-based book inventory system (built by yours truly) and have invested over $40,000 in software and phone app technology that supports teachers to turn their classrooms into book distribution points – “unlocking” their books for their students to take home every night.
  • We’ve started to expand beyond Omaha, running small pilots in Los Angeles and Kansas City aimed at 1.) Gauging DIBS’ ability to build a love for in home reading in communities all across the country and 2.) Serving as an alternate revenue source for this program.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of this list. I am. In fact, back in 2011 the notion of having an office was an absolutely mind-blowing thought.  

But I’d also be lying if I said I was anywhere near satisfied.

Perhaps it’s the entrepreneur in me, but I also believe there is another dynamic at play for why I’m so passionate about DIBS: This problem persists in way too many schools, and way too many communities. And it’s way too solvable.

My Connection to Teaching, My Passion Around Literacy

My mom is a Kindergarten teacher, and hearing her stories growing up eventually led me to pursue a position with Teach For America in New Orleans in 2008. I was convinced from what I heard in the news that schools just needed better teachers in our highest-poverty schools. Convinced, until I realized that just two or three of my 29 first graders had any books at home to read.

During such a pivotal year so early in their academic career I became on-fire about the need to get books in my kids’ hands to take home and read. The schools I taught in and many that I’ve observed since seemed to have one of two responses to this problem:

  1. Do Nothing: Stop worrying about your students’ home lives; Focus on what’s within your control; or

  2. Do Everything: If you care about your students, you’ll fix the problem.

I wasn’t convinced. What if I wanted to solve the problem for my students (“Do Everything”), but if I didn’t want to do so at the sacrifice of my own time, resources (money), and sanity when I already had a full plate as a teacher?

Why couldn’t there be a program that would come into my classroom and figure out all the logistical things that would need to be done to get books in students hands, track those books to make sure they were returned, and follow-up with students and families in a way that builds excitement about in-home reading?

Six years later, that program exists, and is ready to be made available to any school, in any community, nationwide.

You can see the current iteration of DIBS in action here.

Achieving our Mission: 44 Schools – 15,000 Students

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Our vision is to grow to bring unlimited in home reading opportunities to the elementary schools in Omaha with a poverty rate over 70%. We believe this could be 100% accomplished in the next six years.

But, we need some help to get there.

Join the Action

Over the years so many of you have offered a helping hand to DIBS. Only recently have we started to get more clear on how we can actually put your support to use. Here’s our latest thinking about ways you can join the DIBS movement:

  • Share this post and our Facebook page with friends, colleagues, and family members who you think should know about DIBS.
  • Become a DIBS Ambassador. DIBS Ambassadors have a $5,000 fundraising goal their first year with DIBS. Once achieved, those dollars can go toward helping launch DIBS within a school of their choice. Email david@hurried-river.flywheelsites.com to get started.
  • Sign-up for our Volunteer List. We move a lot of books around town. We could use your help, especially to kick-off and wrap-up our school years. Notify us via our contact form if you’d like to join and learn about additional opportunities.


Thank you for reading, and for considering being a part of our Mission. 

– David Orrick
September, 2017

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