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Madison Reading Project to buy, distribute thousands of books to kids during pandemic


Madison Reading Project has raised funds to safely deliver books featuring diverse characters, culturally relevant titles, and bilingual texts to children during the pandemic. 

“It’s very important for children to have books in their homes – they can be a form of entertainment and learning while they’re away from the classroom,” says Rowan Childs, the nonprofit’s executive director. “Books right now can comfort children in this time of family stress and provide literacy journeys that invigorate young imaginations.”

Unfortunately, Madison Reading Project had to cancel their usual activities like individual and group volunteer shifts and program partner visits, and had to close their Book Center. However, their team is working remotely to continue to get books to kids. Childs said the nonprofit will look at creative solutions to keep doing programming in the upcoming summer.  

“This summer we’re still trying to game plan as much as we can since things are changing around here, but we’re still hoping to do a significant amount of programming,” she said.

Their programs usually include reading events and activities for children in grades PreK through 3rd grade. Madison Reading Project also drives the Big Red Reading Bus to scheduled stops at local organizations, libraries, events, and schools to give away high-quality books and other reading materials to kids ages birth to 18-years-old.

“Since COVID, we’ve had to change our operations because we aren’t able to take books from the public at this point so we’ve had to purchase books in bulk,” she said. 

While the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the state, thousands of children across Dane County are confined to their homes due to continued school closures. Childs says Madison Reading Project will continue to fulfill its mission to deliver high quality literacy learning and reinforcement programs to underserved children.

“I started the Madison Reading project about six years ago and our model has always been to give Madison children and educators free books,” she said.

The nonprofit has received over 100,000 gently used and new book donations over the past five years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Madison Reading Project has temporarily stopped accepting their book donations. 

“We’re asking our supporters to hold onto their book donations until our operations return to normal,” Childs said.

Instead, Madison Reading Project will purchase new books to help contain the virus while also delivering reading material to children throughout Dane County. Residents can support Dane County families by contributing to our COVID-19 Emergency Books and Supply Fund. 

“We’re getting quite a few requests from the public and organizations so the list is being updated every day at this point,” she said.

The nonprofit is working with area food pantries, social services agencies, and neighborhood schools that are distributing groceries and home care products to families to package and deliver books for children. Madison Horizons Rotary Club immediately donated $800 helping Madison Reading Project distribute books in the coming weeks, however, the nonprofit needs to raise $20,000 to keep its team working safely and delivering books.

Childs said the organization is also partnering with the Boys & Girls Club and Madison Horizons Rotary. All three Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County locations will start receiving books this week for the next 90 days or as long as needed.

“As of Friday, we have given out, in the last couple of weeks, 3,300 books,” Childs said.

Books range in cost from $3 to $10 each. Madison Reading Project intends to raise enough funding to purchase 10,000 books to meet the demand in the area. The nonprofit provides the books at no cost to children.