Gary Mlodzik | The Children’s Book Review | May 25, 2017
Grow Your Library! Developing Young Readers by Planting Seeds of Literacy in Public Libraries
Thank you for this amazing gift you provide to our local library. Such an amazing staff, and just a really great place to foster a lifelong love of reading!! —Megan Corbett, Huachuca City, Arizona, November 4, 2015
In this digital age of instant gratification, how many of us truly consider a book to be “an amazing gift”? Sure, there are still reading enthusiasts who get giddy over the newest release by their favorite author or reread a classic that carried them lovingly into a world of escape during a dark time. But really, what’s another book on the shelf? For someone like Megan Corbett—a mother of five children—owning books is a luxury. Megan uses the Huachuca City Public Library to educate and entertain her children. Huachuca City is a community with a 70% poverty level and money is not spent on nonessential items like books. Even the public library buys less than fifty children’s books in a calendar year.
The library staff of this Southern Arizona community was in awe when asked if they would like a donation of 200 free books. To say they were overjoyed would be an understatement.
What a treasure trove of books! All I can say is “thank you”. Thank you on behalf of our little library and thank you on behalf of all the Huachuca City children who will get to enjoy this embarrassment of riches you have provided! —Suzanne Harvey, Children’s Librarian, Huachuca City Public Library, Arizona, August 31, 2015
I volunteer with the national literacy foundation, Kids Need to Read (KNTR). The mission of KNTR is to create a culture of reading for children by providing inspiring books to underfunded schools, libraries, and literacy programs across the United States, especially those serving disadvantaged children. I am honored to serve on their board of directors.
In 2015, I developed the Grow Your Library program for KNTR. The organization provides 200 books to four carefully selected, economically challenged libraries in the USA per year. This donation includes board books, picture books, chapter books and even young adult literature. In addition to the book donations, my wife, Tina, and I visit the library and conduct a story time. To encourage philanthropy among the children, we explain how the kids can “donate” more books to the library just by emailing KNTR with a short note regarding what they like about reading, or what they like to read. Then an extra book is donated to the library with the child’s name on a book plate inside the cover! It’s the child’s gift to the library! Each child in attendance also gets a free book and a Highlights magazine to keep. Sometimes the kids are astonished that the book is really theirs for life. At a recent story time, Tina helped a young child select a book and the little girl just stared at the book, looked up at Tina and said, “Is this really mine to keep forever?” An amazing gift indeed.
As with any non-profit organization, finding funding for new programs is challenging. I have been blessed with support and encouragement from many sources. I reach out to friends annually through Facebook to raise money for program and shipping costs to deliver these literary treasures to the libraries Grow Your Library visits. I write to authors and ask for book donations—four books, four sets of books, whatever they can do to support these public libraries in dire financial situations. To have authors respond with such enthusiasm is humbling:
This sounds like a wonderful program, and I’d be happy to donate some books. —Jennifer E. Smith, Author, March 15, 2016
I am excited about what you are doing and am shipping out some books to help out. —Mercer Mayer, Author, April 25, 2016
I strongly support you in this very worthy program, and some books are on the way. —Joan Bauer, Author, June 19, 2016
I am grateful for the number of people who, like me, believe that public libraries need our support to provide services for future generations. As for me, I am just some guy who went to the little public library in Kewaskum, Wisconsin on a regular basis as a child and discovered there was a big world outside of my rural farming community. Now, when I receive an email from an author known worldwide, like Shannon Messenger or Roland Smith, with kind words about Grow Your Library, it humbles me to know I can and will make a difference in the lives of others through this program. A short time ago, my phone rang on a Friday afternoon with a number I did not recognize. Lauren Tarshis, best-selling author of the I Survived series, wanted to discuss how she could further help with Grow Your Library. I was giddy and yet honored by that call. To me, that was the equivalent of being an eighth grade music teacher and having Eric Clapton call and ask to stop by to help the kids with some guitar lessons.
How to Support the Grow Your Library Program
If readers would like to support this endeavor with a financial donation, please visit the KNTR webpage: kidsneedtoread.org/donate
If you have a favorite children’s book you would like us to include in the Grow Your Library program, you can send new books directly from Amazon to: Kids Need to Read, Attn: Grow Your Library, 2450 W. Broadway Road, Suite 110, Mesa, AZ 85202. Multiples of four books per title are best, so we can provide one to each library we visit annually.
Tina and I hope you see the Grow Your Library program and Kids Need to Read as worthy of your support. Books deliver hope, escape and a glimpse outside the norm of poverty. We would love to have you as a member of the Grow Your Library team, providing these opportunities for children and young adults across the country.
More information about Grow Your Library: kidsneedtoread.org/growyourlibrary/
The article How You Can Help Underfunded Schools, Libraries, and Literacy Programs was written by Gary Mlodzik, Grow Your Library Director. For similar articles, follow along with our content tagged with Book Donations and Literacy Resources.
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