Taking Stock

by Mary-Catherine Harrison, Director, Rx for Reading Detroit

I’m a sucker for New Year’s resolutions (even though I’ll probably break them come January), but for me the end of the year is also a time to give thanks and take stock. With Rx for Reading, that includes taking actual stock of the books we gave to our many community partners this year. Luckily, an Excel spreadsheet does much of that work for us!

In 2018, we were able to distribute 29,585 books: 22,880 gently used books donated by individuals and groups all around Metro Detroit and 6,705 new books that we were able to purchase with monetary donations so that children can have the excitement and pride of owning a brand new book of their own. Our goal for this semester is to reach 125,000 books distributed to kids and families in our community.

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The Rx for Reading table at the UCFHS Math and Science Fair

The end of the year (and beginning of the winter semester) is also a time to take stock of the books we have on hand and the requests we need to fill. When I started Rx for Reading in 2014 I had no idea that supply chain management would be such a critical feature of the work! Balancing books in and books out can be a delicate dance, but it always seems to work out in the end. This fall we had a bit of stress when we depleted our entire stock of picture books, but at the critical moment we received several monetary donations from new and long-time supporters and small grants from the Ford Fund and the Detroit Mercy Mission Micro Grant Program. After placing several huge orders from the First Book National Book Bank, we were back up and running.

Every monetary donation we receive goes straight to work–and each donation makes an enormous impact. In case you missed it, you can see what as little as $10 can accomplish in a recent blog post.

Towards the end of the semester we also received four large donations of books that will get us off to a good start this January. These donations give a good sense of the diverse groups of folks who collect books on our behalf: the Robocubs Team at University of Detroit Jesuit, the Birmingham Country Club Book Club, Talia, a seventh grader who collected books as a community service project for her Bat Mitzvah, and Elijah, a high schooler who collected books for his Eagle Scout project. I have this refrain in my head most days–It truly takes a village.

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At the César Chávez Elementary School Library, which was sponsored in honor of Sara and Joe Gifford

Much of our day-to-day work is spent working to meet the needs of our many community partners. We recently calculated that we have provided over 20,000 books to eight different clinics run by the Arab American Chaldean Council, one of our first and most dedicated community partners! Every week student volunteers read in Head Start classrooms and help each child pick a new book to take home and keep.

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Connor Batcheller reads to the kids at Beatty Early Learning Center

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Mike Tartaglia reads to the kids at Beatty Early Learning Center

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An exciting bit in the book!

One highlight this year was establishing new Rx for Reading free community libraries at four different schools–César Chávez Early Elementary in Southwest Detroit, Dove Academy on the East Side, Adams Upper Elementary School in Westland, and the Beatty Early Learning Center in Ypsilanti. These libraries are now an integral part of their school communities, where children can choose books to “Take, Read, Share” at any time. Another highlight was “upgrading” the Washtenaw WIC Clinic–from a bookcase to a beautiful rainbow library–in honor of Elayne Hack, a lifelong lover of books. John Mio continues to be extraordinarily generous, donating his time and talent to building each and every one of our libraries.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

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From the Dove Academy Library Launch

Since the beginning, the daily operations of Rx for Reading have been run by students at University of Detroit Mercy. Without them we simply wouldn’t exist (and I would fall to pieces!). It was both exciting and sad when our longtime student coordinator, Emma Mucci, graduated this May. Emma dedicated hundreds upon hundreds of hours to Rx for Reading, including managing volunteer hours for scores of students in my service learning courses. This academic year the core members of the Rx for Reading team are Chanel Smith, who reads at Emmanuel Head Start and makes virtually all of our pickups and deliveries, Temperance Baker, who manages our donations and deliveries (and tries to create order among the chaos!), Jency Shaji, who reads at All About Kids Head Start and helps with book sorting, and Hannah Tillman, who does whatever else needs doing. Brittany Derr, our longtime reader at Summer Preschool, which is just a few blocks away from campus, is also graduating, but Nurzahan Rahman graciously stepped in and took over reading in the school’s Head Start and Great Start classrooms.

There is so much more I could talk about, but suffice it to say I am grateful for the year we have had and looking forward to the year to come. There is always more to be done.

Thank you to each and every one of our volunteers, donors, partners, and friends. You have given children with limited access to books the opportunity to read. What could be more valuable? Of course we would be happy for your end-of-year (or any time of year) donations of money, books, or time. Please subscribe to our blog; follow us on Facebook or Twittertell your friends; and keep in touch.

Together, WE ARE

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75,000! (And counting)

Guest blog by Emma Mucci, Student Coordinator for Rx for Reading Detroit

Rx for Reading has reached another memorable milestone! Since September 2014, we have distributed over 75,000 books to thousands of kids and families in our community. We couldn’t have done it without our incredible community partners, organizations that work every day to support families and empower children in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.

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Rx for Reading Free Library at the Detroit Public Library Parkman Branch.

We also could not have reached this goal without our many supporters and donors. As the number of families we serve has grown, so has our need for books and financial donations. During the spring and summer of 2017, over 20 different organizations and schools ran book drives for Rx for Reading. Book drives were held as close as the University of Detroit Mercy campus to as far away as Grand Junction, Colorado! Together these donors contributed over 10,000 books to help support literacy for all children.

Achieve Charter Academy Book Drive

Two of our youngest book drive organizers!

Some of the books that found new homes and families this summer.

Thank you, Salem Elementary!

Thank you to Salem Elementary School and Principal Ray Metcalf for a generous summer donation to RX for Reading Detroit!  Not only did Salem donate great books, but they also gave six additional boxes of writing paper, building blocks, and counting tiles.  Salem’s supplies will make great “Back to School” packages as RX for Reading gears up for the fall and continues to promote literacy as the core of all learning.

Salem Elementary Field Day

Salem Elementary Field Day

Principal Metcalf!

Principal Metcalf!

Thank you, Bach Elementary!

Where do you get the best books for kids?  From kids!

Bach PawIn honor of March is Reading Month, Bach Elementary School ran a school-wide book drive for RX for Reading Detroit.  They set an ambitious goal: collect 1,000 books in one month, enough to create an RX for Reading Clinic Library and sustain it for one year.

Bach met that goal…and quadrupled it!  The kids, families, and teachers at Bach collected 4,033 books, enough to establish THREE RX for Reading Clinic Libraries.  With their hard work and generosity, RX for Reading was able to build libraries at the new Children’s Health Center in Midtown, the ACC Behavioral Health Clinic on Seven Mile, and the ACC Behavioral Health and Primary Care Clinic in Dearborn.

Special thanks to Elameno-Peace for their help Elameno-Corpsorganizing the book drive, the Bach Elementary 4th Grade Service Squad for their hard work collecting and sorting the books, and the Bach Elementary PTO for their support.  Elameno-Peace sponsored prizes for the three classrooms that collected the most books, and supporters of Bach and RX for Reading sponsored a $100 prize if Bach met its overall goal.  The RX for Reading Prize will be used to purchase books with characters from diverse backgrounds for the Bach Elementary Library.

This is what kids can accomplish when they work together to make a difference.  THANK YOU, BACH!

The 4th Grade Service Squad made the book drive a reality.

The 4th Grade Service Squad made the book drive a reality.  Here they are at the announcement of the book drive.

Members of the service squad collect books.

The Service Squad decorated and distributed collection bins and served as “ambassadors” to each classroom.  Each week, they collected and counted books and made announcements to the school about progress towards their goal.

RX for Reading Executive Director Mary-Catherine Harrison awards the RX for Reading Prize.  Ann Arbor musicians Gemini and storyteller Laura Raynor were on hand for the celebration.

RX for Reading Executive Director Mary-Catherine Harrison presents the RX for Reading Prize.  Ann Arbor musicians Gemini and storyteller Laura Raynor were on hand for the celebration.

Audrey and Ava represented the school at the March is Reading Month celebration.

The kids were excited about the prizes, but much more excited about working together for literacy and social justice.  Many of them picked out their very favorite books to contribute to the book drive and convinced siblings and friends to donate too.

Please contact us if you would like to make a donation to RX for Reading or are a school or community organization that would like to run an RX for Reading Book Drive!