Detroit is Brilliant!

Since 2014, Rx for Reading has created 65 free community libraries in Detroit, Dearborn, Highland Park, Hamtramck, and Ypsilanti. Each library is hosted by a community partner dedicated to serving children and families in under-resourced communities. Brilliant Detroit is one of them.

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Brilliant Detroit takes a unique, neighborhood-based approach to promoting early childhood education and literacy. They purchase and renovate homes in the neighborhoods they serve, transforming them into community gathering spaces for the whole family. At each Brilliant Detroit house programming and activities are responsive to community needs and include tutoring, childcare, exercise classes, birth and parenting classes, gardening, and a range of literacy activities. In addition to providing libraries, we have donated thousands of English, Spanish, and bilingual books to Brilliant Detroit so every child and family has books to read!
Happy Customers!

Happy customers!

“Over the last two years, Little Libraries provided by Rx for Reading have become a staple of each Brilliant Detroit hub, functioning as welcoming and accessible places for our neighbors to access a whole host of books free of charge. Not only do they help get books out into neighborhoods where there are so few; they act as welcome mats for the Brilliant Detroit hubs themselves, signaling that these are spaces for community to come and gather. Currently we have Little Libraries set up or ready to be installed at all of our locations, and we are excited for these to be a part of every Brilliant Detroit hub to come.”
Cindy Eggleton, Co-Founder and CEO of Brilliant Detroit

Three Little Libraries, all in a rowRx for Reading also provides opportunities for University of Detroit Mercy college students to get involved and engaged in their community. This spring, students in Alpha Phi Omega, the co-ed service learning fraternity at University of Detroit Mercy, designed and painted three community libraries for Brilliant Detroit hubs. Material costs for the libraries were funded by a Detroit Mercy Mission Micro Grant and generous gifts from individual donors.

Members of the APO Service Fraternity hard at work

APO members hard at work. Pictured: Da’Jonae Foster, Carmela Esteva, Claire Washburn, Janasia Johnson, Irelynd Bone, Matthew Shand Not pictured: Matthew Rimle, Aaron Parker.  Special shout-out to Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering and Science, which invited APO to use the Engineering High Bay, and John Mio, our stalwart woodworker, who builds all of the Rx for Reading libraries.

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Rx for Reading Library at Brilliant Detroit Southwest.

We are proud to stand with Alpha Phi Omega in supporting Brilliant Detroit, an organization that works to foster love and learning, safety and stability, health and growth for young children and their families!

To find out more about Brilliant Detroit, watch this inspiring video.

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.

Happy Reader

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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