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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Partner Profile: Covenant Community Care

In 2015, Rx for Reading Detroit began a valued partnership with Covenant Community Care, a federally qualified health clinic that provides care regardless of patients’ ability to pay.  Each year Covenant provides health, dental, and behavioral care to over 18,000 people in Metro Detroit through their seven clinics as well as their home care and homeless outreach programs.

In two years Rx for Reading has provided over 3,500 books to the patients and families at the Covenant Michigan Avenue Health Clinic, another 1,350 books to the Covenant Michigan Avenue Dental Clinic, and 550 books to the Covenant Clinic on Moross. With the help of our generous donors we are able to include new Spanish and bilingual books in every delivery to Covenant clinics in Southwest Detroit.

Dr. Mary Hakim and the other healthcare providers at Covenant know how important reading and access to books is for children’s long-term health and educational outcomes:

“Literacy promotion is critical to pediatric care. Many families living in poverty do not have the funds to purchase books for their home.  The Rx for Reading program enables families to have this resource. Providers and clinics can also influence parents’ views on literacy by emphasizing the importance of reading aloud with their children.  This helps with language development and literacy, promotes bonding within families, and helps forge a love for reading.”

Dr. Mary Hakim, M.D., Covenant Community Care

Nuestros NinosThank you to the families and staff of Covenant Community Care. We are proud to partner with you!


Rx for Reading Ypsilanti launches free library at Washtenaw WIC!

Rx for Reading has expanded!

We are thrilled to announce the launch of Rx for Reading Ypsilanti and their first Rx for Reading free library at the Washtenaw WIC Clinic at 555 Towner, Ypsilanti, MI.  Washtenaw WIC provides nutritional counseling and food for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to five years of age as well as breastfeeding support and referrals for immunizations, prenatal care, and more.

Now, moms and children will also get to choose a book to take home every time they visit Washtenaw WIC.

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Cathy Sanborn, WIC Dietician, and Gayathri Akella, WIC Coordinator with the new Rx for Reading Ypsilanti Library

Rx for Reading Ypsilanti is spearheaded by Kaitlin Browne, an English Literature graduate student at Eastern Michigan University.  Kaitlin was inspired by the idea of taking her passion for literature outside of the college classroom and into a setting where literacy can be enjoyed and encouraged at a young age.  As Kaitlin describes her own path to reading, “I was fortunate because, although my family didn’t have much money when I was growing up, my mother worked as a clerk at a bookstore.  Having access to those books is a huge part of why I study literature today.”


Right after the Rx for Reading Ypsilanti WIC library opened, this little sweetheart and her mom chose a book to read and take home.

Thank you to Kaitlin and to the staff and families at Washtenaw WIC!

“This makes my heart smile.  Reading is power!”  Erica McLeod, Washtenaw WIC Breastfeeding Peer Educator

Rx for Reading at UDM’s Counseling Clinic

Our latest Rx for Reading library is right on the campus of University of Detroit Mercy!  UDM’s Counseling Clinic is a no-cost mental health clinic providing individual and group counseling to approximately 250 clients per year.  The clinic provides counseling for children and adults for a variety of mental health concerns, including depression, substance use, anger management, anxiety and career counseling.

Counseling Clinic 2Nursing major Heather Galli and English and Education major Paige Olekszyk braved the winter weather to deliver the bookcase and books.  They were able to fit 365 books onto the book shelves–one for every day of the year.  Special thanks to Emilie Wetherington, Director of Disability Support Services at University of Detroit Mercy, for her donation of the bookcase.

Counseling Clinic I croppedClinical Director Sheri Pickover, Ph.D., LPC spoke to the value of incorporating Rx for Reading into the clinic’s work:  “The opportunity to access free reading material provides the children and adults who come to the Counseling Clinic with an improved waiting room experience and a way to obtain often expensive books.  The Counseling Clinic is grateful for the ability to offer our clients these resources.”

The Greatest Gifts are the Ones We Give

This holiday season, there is a whole lot of reading going on across Detroit!

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Rx for Reading at Waller Health Center

In 2015, Rx for Reading distributed 20,000 books to babies, toddlers, kids, and teens in our community. At our 18 Rx for Reading Clinic Libraries, children at health, dental, and WIC clinics choose a book to take home at every visit. At our 3 Head Start partners, preschoolers read with UDM college students and choose a new book to take home every two weeks. And this fall, we expanded our Free Community Library Initiative by installing 12 Rx for Reading Little Free Libraries in community organizations across Detroit.

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Rx for Reading at Detroit Center for Family Advocacy

The Rx for Reading Free Community Library Initiative helps integrate literacy into the work of community organizations already serving children, teens, and families in our community.  Each library is delivered to its new home along with a collection of 250 books, and everyone visiting the libraries is invited to choose a book to read and take home.


Rx for Reading at LA SED (Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development)

We could not be more proud to partner with these incredible organizations: St. Christine’s Soup Kitchen, LA SED (Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development), Capuchin Services CenterCabrini ClinicCOTS Detroit, Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, Covenant House, Butzel Family Center, Don Bosco Hall Community Resource Center, Leland Baptist Church, and Spectrum Health’s Lincoln and Calumet Residential Treatment Facilities.

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Rx for Reading at the Don Bosco Hall Community Resource Center

Rx for Reading Clinic Libraries and Little Free Libraries create community spaces that celebrate reading and allow thousands of children to choose books to read, love, and keep.

We are so grateful to each and every one of the generous donors and volunteers who made our work possible this year.  Hundreds of individuals gave their time, money, expertise, and books.

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Rx for Reading at Bright Beginnings

Thank you for giving the gift of reading to Detroit’s next generation of readers and leaders.




Children’s Health Center has moved, and RX for Reading moved with them!

One of our very first RX for Reading Clinic Libraries has moved!  Children’s Health Center, part of Advantage Health Centers, is now located inside the Waller Health Center in midtown Detroit. CHC provides high-quality health care to under- and uninsured patients, offering care to children and their families.  CHC staff physician, Erin Walton-Doyle, MD, is board-certified in both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine.

Dr. Walton-Doyle knows, reading is essential to children’s health!  When the Children’s Health Center moved they packed up the RX for Reading Library and took it with them.  We just replenished the library with another 365 books so their pediatric patients can continue to pick out a book to take home at every single checkup.  Thank you to Dr. Walton-Doyle, the CHC staff, and all the kids and families at Children’s Health Center!

Christopher Boston and his Mom pick out a new book

Christopher Boston and his Mom pick out a new book