Madison Reading Project delivered a record-setting 35,000 free books as part of its 2020 Summer Reading Program, partnering with local schools and community social workers to keep area children reading while libraries were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Children need access to books these days, not only so they stay entertained as isolation is recommended, but they allow children to continue building on their literacy skills and growing their brains,” says Jannyce Rodriguez-Duverge, Family Engagement Specialist, Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District and a member of the Project’s board, in a statement. “Books give children new knowledge, entertainment, empowerment, and can help keep them out of trouble.”

More than 12,000 local children received books through partnerships with community organizations such as Reach Dane, Boys/Girls Club of Dane County, Madison School & Community Recreation’s Art Cart, and elementary schools for family pick-up. Madison Reading Project sanitizes and delivers the bags of books to the organizations. The books often accompany a selection of home hygiene supplies and packages of food supplied by other nonprofits.

“Educators tell us that there is a need for books in the classroom and for students to use at home,” says Rowan Childs, the nonprofit’s executive director, in a statement. “We’ve also received many requests for diverse books that we would love to help fulfill.

“The demand for books, unfortunately, exceeds our budget,” Childs adds. “The pandemic and social distancing have prevented us from holding our usual summer fundraising events, but we’re doing what we can. With schools opening virtually this fall, we’ll soon be working with teachers to get books to children in need. And it might involve teachers reading to children online and supplying classrooms for when the kids return.”