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Madison Reading Project hits major milestone

The local literacy nonprofit will receive a donation of 1,000 new books from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators tonight, while also giving away its 100,000th book to a local underserved child.

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Today is a big day for Madison Reading Project.

Founded in 2013 by Rowan Childs, the nonprofit’s mission is to deliver high-quality literacy learning reinforcement programs to underserved children, namely by providing free books to area children.  

Now, Madison Reading Project is expected to reach a gigantic milestone when it gives away its 100,000th free book to a child at a celebration authors and book illustrators from around the country have planned for the local nonprofit.

This evening, supporters of the national Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators will recognize Madison Reading Project as one of two recipients of its national award, and present MRP staff with a donation of 1,000 books gifted by its member authors and artists.

At the public event, to be held at 6 p.m., Madison Masonic Center, 301 Wisconsin Ave., children of all ages will share in a celebration of the award, partake in literacy-related enrichment activities, a light meal and, receive what Madison Reading Project is known for — a free, brand-new children’s book to take home, possibly the Project’s 100,000th free book.

“It’s a remarkable feat — giving away a mountain of books to underserved area children — in only six years of delivering upon our literacy mission throughout Dane County,” says Childs. “This year alone we’ve given away close to 33,000 books and we plan to give many, many more in the years to come.”

Childs can’t wait to watch a child pick out that 100,000th book, write their name on the bookplate, and give the book a big hug. “Giving children the choice of what they would like to read — and take home to fill their bookshelves with — is so important to their book pride and the opportunity for the book to be read and reread several times at home.”

Madison Reading Project delivers, at no charge, high-quality, multilingual literacy learning reinforcement programs with companion free books to underserved children in an ongoing commitment to reversing low literacy rates, closing opportunity gaps, building family libraries, and inspiring literacy delight.

Their programs engage children in differentiated literacy activities designed to create not only a love of learning, but also to build and reinforce age-appropriate skills needed to develop the young reader. Staff and volunteers bring story time, arts and crafts, story discussions, and free books to kids and caregivers at family shelters, neighborhood centers, libraries, after-school childcare programs, social-services organizations, and schools. MRP staff align those programs with local school districts to focus on improving reading skills — especially the skills of children of color — by making reading in the home an exciting, family-wide activity, by nurturing a love for books, and by designing literacy skills improvement programming specifically designed to reach these children and their families.

For her part, Childs never expected MRP to grow so big and so fast.

“I had a theory that children needed books, and people had books to give,” explains Childs. “I am often awestruck in what we have provided with our small group of passionate employees and volunteers. Kids, families, schools, and community centers appreciate the extra care, work, and thought we put into what we do. It makes my heart sing to see others get involved, collaborate, volunteer, or donate funds to help us inspire children with wonderful books and literacy programming.”

Childs notes the group’s fundraisers have also been a hit with the public. Events like Whiskey & Words and READ(y) to Wear each came from ideas where MRP staff just thought up a fun and different type of event with a literacy twist that could help get their name and cause out there, along with raising funds.

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