“Give a book, and you change the world … In a way, even the universe.”
A Phoenix-area nonprofit group Kids Need to Read is taking those words from astrophysicist Neil deGraase Tyson to heart, donating children’s books and study materials to libraries, schools and literacy programs across the country.
On Saturday, March 14 at 10:30 a.m., Kids Need to Read will be launching its new “Grow Your Library” book-giving program at the Grand County Public Library, which is located at 257 E. Center St.
The program, which is the brainchild of Kids Need to Read board member Gary Mlodzik, aims to inspire a new generation of philanthropists through book donations in children’s names. Children who attend the March 14 event can find out how Kids Need to Read will donate books to the library in their names.
“It’s another means of getting them involved,” he said.
Mlodzik and his wife Tina will also be reading to children during story time that day, and each child who attends the event will receive a free book and a free copy of Highlights magazine, courtesy of Kids Need to Read.
This weekend’s giveaways will come on top of the 200 titles that the Mesa, Arizona-based group previously donated to the library’s permanent collection, according to Grand County Public Library Head of Children/ Teen Services Charlotte Hurley.
She was not familiar with the group before Mlodzik called her out of the blue and began to ask her about the facility. Hurley is used to getting phone calls from parents with questions about the library and its services, so she assumed that Mlodzik was just another local dad.
Ten or 15 minutes into their conversation, she was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mlodzik and Kids Need to Read were interested in launching their new book donation project in Moab.
“We love opportunities to put books into the hands of kids, and we feel really honored that he chose our library,” she said.
The assortment that Kids Need to Read came up with includes picture books, chapter books and young adult fiction, including titles for beginners and intermediate-level readers.
“He had his group pick the books for us, and they are amazing,” Hurley said. “We’re really excited with the selection they have.”
The library began to process the books as soon as they arrived, and some of the titles will be available to check out on March 14.
Duplicate copies of popular titles like “Divergent” and “The Maze Runner” went to schools in the region: Hurley offered Paradox Valley Charter School in Paradox, Colorado, about 70 books, while an armful went to Helen M. Knight Elementary School.
“We are paying it forward,” Hurley said.
Kids Need to Read Executive Director Denise Gary said the group’s latest program is based on the idea that books’ greatest power comes from the ways that people use reading to shape their lives.
“Inspiring children to read at an early age allows that vital, lifelong process to begin,” she said in a statement.
Since the group was founded in 2008, Kids Need to Read has worked to promote that process at underserved or underfunded schools and libraries, as well as literacy projects, programs for juvenile offenders and homeless shelters.
“Sometimes, these kids have nothing,” Mlodzik said.
In some extreme cases, school libraries in Arizona haven’t received new books in more than 20 years, according to the group’s website.
“Your demographic is not our typical demographic,” Mlodzik said.
Kids Need to Read will sometimes hear from people who reach out to it with requests for help. On other occasions, Mlodzik said the group will approach affected entities if it reads about schools or libraries that have lost funding for reading materials.
The latest project is a first for the volunteer-driven group, which has just two full-time employees: Mlodzik decided to launch it in Moab because he and his wife will be visiting national parks in the area.
“We had planned on traveling up there,” he said.
After the grand kickoff in Moab, the Mlodziks plan to expand the Grow Your Library program to other facilities, as they travel elsewhere around the country.
“We’re excited,” Mlodzik said. “This is a new venture for us, as far as our community involvement goes.”
New children’s book donation project comes to Moab
: “We love opportunities to put books into the hands of kids, and we feel really honored that he chose our library.”
When: Saturday, March 14 at 10:30 a.m.
Where: Grand County Public Library, 257 E. Center St.
To learn more about Kids Need to Read, go to kidsneedtoread.org. For more information about the Grand County Public Library, go to moablibrary.org, or call 435-259-1111.