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In the news during the COVID-19 era

Lemont publishing company donates books to keep kids reading while in self-isolation

A local publisher is doing its part to keep kids reading during self-isolation. Lemont-based Eifrig Publishing has made its collection of children’s books available for free, offering e-books on its website, as well as physical copies of the books through school meal pick-up programs within both the State College Area School District and the Bellefonte Area School District.

Penny Eifrig started Eifrig Publishing in 2006, not necessarily looking to found a small indie publishing house, but only to publish a few manuscripts for her family members.

“Without really any immediate intent, I started getting inquiries for publishing just awesome books that were empowering for kids and really align with my ideals. Somehow it just started blossoming. I have over 100 books now,” Eifrig said.

Most of the books in the collection have community-oriented, empowerment or environmental themes.

“That’s become my primary daily activity: creating my books. It’s not necessarily my primary income ... but definitely my priority during every day,” she said.

As the coronavirus pandemic began to grow in intensity and children were kept home from school and asked to self-isolate, Eifrig wanted to do her part to alleviate some of the stress children and their families might be experiencing during this time.

“I’ve always been someone who needs to feel like I can do my own part in whatever way is possible ... and while I don’t have a lot of income and a lot of money, I do have my ability to create things and help in person,” she said.

Parents can access the Eifrig Publish website ( and order e-books from the collection and choose to pay nothing or up to $10 to help fund the distribution of more books to the community. Eifrig fulfills each order personally, sending the e-book copies to families via email and always including what she says is one of the most important books in her collection, especially given current events.

“I’m always including one book called ‘A Garden of Emotions’, which is one of my most important books, I think. It’s about EFT tapping and it’s a resource for kids to destress and deal with anxiety through a simple method,” she said. “I’m including a free copy of that whether they order it or not, with each order, and just trying to encourage families to help their kids be calm and relaxed and doing the best they can through this.”

Most of the e-books available are for children ages 4 to 8, though some middle-grade chapter books are also available.

Eifrig recently took her initiative a step further.

“I’ve been getting the emails about the free lunches (from the State College Area School District) ... and I thought, wouldn’t it be great, for these families who are really struggling to get by, to have more than just their sustenance?”

Eifrig connected with the SCASD to provide more than 200 physical books for distribution with school meals, and a request for a similar donation shortly came from the Bellefonte Area School District. In total, Eifrig estimates she has now distributed more than 500 books, including both digital and physical copies.

Funding for the book donations to the two school districts comes from a local nonprofit Random Acts of Reading, which promotes reading for children and author events in schools. Eifrig Publishing provides the books at cost to Random Acts of Reading, which then facilitates the donation. If anyone would like to help promote additional distribution of books, Eifrig said, they can make a tax-free donation to Random Acts of Reading via the Eifrig Publishing website.

“I’m currently out of funds, with the two deliveries I just did, but I’m providing the books at cost to the nonprofit so we can get the maximum books out there,” Eifrig said. “The last donations were made possible because my parents said, ‘We don’t need the stimulus fund that’s coming in, so we’re going to donate that toward the nonprofit and help get the books out there.’ Just as a general idea, if you’re receiving a stimulus fund and it’s not something that will help your family get through a crisis, but it’s just additional, consider donating it to some good cause — a food bank, or books, whatever it is you want to do. That’s a great way of supporting others in our community who are less fortunate.”