Southside woman’s life-long love of reading inspires her to give away 1 million books

Jennifer Williams AKA ‘The Book Lady’ will be featured on NBC’s ‘Today’ on Thursday morning

She has set a goal to give away ONE MILLION books in her community!

DANVILLE, Va. – A local woman’s mission is getting attention from people all around the nation.

Jennifer Williams wears her title, “The Book Lady,” proudly in her Pittsylvania County-Danville community.

“I’m going to work really hard to make sure that anyone who wants books has books,” she said.

Williams’ love for books comes from her mom, who was a librarian. Instead of getting an allowance for chores growing up, she’d get one for reading.

Now, she wants students to love reading the way she did. So, she is setting out to give away 1 million books.

“Even in my small town, there are book deserts. That’s what we call them. Book deserts, where there are kids that don’t have books.”

Six years ago, Williams was tutoring kids after school. She’d read to them, and afterward, many would ask if they could keep the book.

That’s when she started collecting donations and even buying books out of her own pocket. She’s handed out about 92,000 so far.

“Learning to read and your ability to read is truly still, even in our digital world, the key to a more successful life.”

It’s not just kids she’s helping either. Williams keeps 40 little free libraries in Southside stocked. She also holds creative writing lessons and a book club at the jail.

The community has rallied to help her reach her goal. Williams said many times she comes home to find a donated box of books on the porch.

“At the end of the day, when I read, I can be anywhere,” she said. “I can leave all the things that have stressed me or frustrated me.”

The goal is to get books in 1 million hands, but she’ll continue to turn the page as long as she can.

If she ever finds some spare time between her three jobs and volunteer hours, she said maybe someday she’ll write one of her own.

On Thursday morning, Williams will be featured on “Today” during the 8:30 a.m. half hour.

She’s also been featured on CNN, The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest and more.

About the Author:

Kortney joined the 10 News team as a Lynchburg Bureau Reporter in May 2021.