“We would like to thank you sooooo much for the donation of the Book Library as well as all of the wonderful books you sent with it. Both the children and staff love the Library!!!”
Angela Dunklin, Center Supervisor for Regent Park Early Learning Center
Coming Together in the Face of COVID
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Rx for Reading teamed up with one our very first community partners, United Children and Family Head Start, and a new partner, Gleaners Community Food Bank, to provide food for little ones’ minds — along with food for their bodies! Since March, UCFHS and Gleaners have served over 100 families twice a month, and Rx for Reading has provided over 1,000 brand new children’s books for this extraordinary effort.
Coming together in the face of COVID-19 has been a natural extension of our work with United Children and Family Head Start. Since 2015, University of Detroit Mercy undergraduates have read with hundreds of Head Start and Great Start preschoolers through our Reading Buddies program. Participating preschoolers get to choose a new book to take home and keep every week — 13,500 books and counting.
We were so disappointed when the Reading Buddies program had to go on hiatus due to COVID, but thankful that children and families could continue to access books during this difficult time.
As always, books were purchased with donations from our generous supporters, and we were able to offer some fantastic selections, including Elephant and Piggie Like Reading; Leonardo: The Terrible Monster; Knuffle Bunny; Drawn Together; Digger the Dinosaur; Don’t Worry Little Critter; Holly’s Day at the Pool; Finding Dory; Drawn Together; and Baby Beluga.
As a special treat for Rx for Reading and UCFHS families, Ms. Kimberly Ogletree recorded a video reading one of the amazing books we were able to distribute this spring: The World Shines for You.
Please enjoy and share!
Thank you to United Children and Family Head Start and Gleaners Community Food Bank. It takes a village–we are glad to be in yours!
Life as a Guest Reader!
By Chanel Marie Smith
The role of being a guest reader is far more interesting than the title alone. Most weeks I join the preschoolers at Emmanuel Head Start, which is a few miles northeast of the university. Watching the children grow each semester and develop a true love for reading is a remarkable feeling. We look forward to seeing each other every week–they know my name, and I know all of theirs! I have also had the pleasure of reading with students at Cooke S.T.E.M. Academy (Detroit Public Schools Community District) and Dickinson West Elementary (Hamtramck Public Schools). Watching the children interact with different stories–especially guessing the events of what will happen next–is my favorite part of being a guest reader.
March is Reading Month was quite the celebration this year. Emmanuel, Cooke S.T.E.M., and Dickinson West all celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday. We kicked off the month by reading the classic Happy Birthday to You!, which was Dr. Seuss’s first all-color picture book. The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and High? Low? Where Did It Go? were popular with both the preschoolers and elementary students. A lot of the children were most familiar with The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. This story revolves around the Cat making a mess of everything he touches while incorporating all of the letters of the alphabet. The children at all of the schools know the sequences of this book like you would know your favorite movie.
Keeping up with the stories children love, Emmanuel Head Start has taken a dive into the Pete the Cat series for the month of April. So far, we have read Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes and Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes. The song in Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes was very catchy and the children sung right along, which was great!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Twitter; tell your friends; and keep in touch.
Together, WE ARE
Tales of a Donation
Most days the problems of the world feel very large, and our ability to solve them so very small.
“What could $10 possibly do?”
With zero overhead, Rx for Reading uses 100% of donations to purchase new books and build free community libraries.
This is what we purchased with a recent $10.00 donation:
THANKS from the Very Hungry Caterpillar: 70¢
I Wonder: Celebrating Daddies Doin’ Work: 60¢
Satchmo’s Blues, 80¢
Jan Brett’s Animal Treasury: 80¢
Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible: 80¢
The Very Eric Carle Treasury: 80¢
The Foot Book: 80¢
The Only Child: 80¢
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo: 60¢
If You Come Softly: 80¢
The Crayons’ Book of Numbers: 80¢
The All-I’ll-Ever-Want-Christmas-Doll: 80¢
For those of you keeping count at home:
One $10 donation.
13 brand new books.
And 10¢ to spare.
Thank you to all of our supporters, from Rx for Reading Detroit!
Make your tax-deductible donation here:
Happy 3rd Birthday to Rx for Reading Detroit!
On September 25th, 2014, Rx for Reading Detroit was born!
Our mission from the beginning has been a simple one:
- Expand access to high-quality children’s books for kids in our community.
- Support low-income families in reading with their children.
- Collaborate with diverse community partners in Detroit and the surrounding area.
Our initial goal was to collect and distribute 1,000 children’s books. Three years later, we have had the great privilege of giving over 80,000 books to kids and families in Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Dearborn, and Ypsilanti.
How have we done it?
Thousands of growing kids and teens have given their books to be shared with younger children.
Scores of schools, businesses, and community organizations have run book drives to help collect books.
20,000 brand new books have been purchased with generous financial support from over 100 individual donors as well as grants from Impact Detroit, Ford Community Corps, Kohl’s Cares, University of Detroit Mercy Mission Micro-Grant Program, and University of Detroit Mercy Women’s and Gender Studies Program.
Over 100 Detroit Mercy undergraduates and graduate students have done the “heavy lifting” of day-to-day operations.
Our belief is that literacy is social justice.
Our vision is to help eliminate the opportunity gap by ensuring universal access to age-appropriate reading material.
Our commitment is to raising the next generation of readers and leaders in our community.
To help celebrate our 3rd birthday, read to a child in your life, or give a donation to help support reading in the lives of all children!
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.
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.
Some of the books that found new homes and families this summer.
Rx for Reading Community Libraries–Making Space for Reading!
In a city characterized as a “book desert,” how do you grow an environment that is rich with print?
Our answer is that reading can happen anywhere, so books need to be everywhere. Over the last two years Rx for Reading has established over 30 community libraries in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park, in addition to our 15 clinic libraries in health, dental, and WIC clinics. These little houses for books can be found in community centers, churches, schools, shelters, and more. At each Rx for Reading Community Library children and families are invited to choose books to “Take, Read, Share!”–over 15,000 books in all, in addition to 55,000 books distributed through our other programs.
“As the ultimate portable object, books move from community spaces into the home environments of children, where they have been shown to have such a powerful impact on literacy and academic success.”
Mary-Catherine Harrison, Ph.D. from “Rx for Reading Detroit: Place-Based Social Justice Pedagogy” (Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring 2017)
“The Hamtramck Neighborhood Center has been transformed so that the community, seniors and youth can receive services in a safe inviting space. Seniors come during the day for wellness and health classes and activities. The youth come after school and during the summer for great exposure to recreation, art, cooking and yoga classes. Both groups use the “reading lounge” to relax and enjoy a good book donated by Rx for Reading Detroit.”
Gregory Everett, LMSW, Executive Director of People’s Community Services of Metropolitan Detroit.
Rx for Reading libraries are not only resources for the community; they are created through a community effort. Our community partners serve as library stewards, helping to keep the libraries safe and stocked with books. Building materials are purchased with monetary donations from our generous supporters, who also donate books to help keep them filled. John Mio Woodworking volunteers their labor and many painters have volunteered their artistic expertise, including kids who use the libraries! If you would like to sponsor an Rx for Reading Community Library, a donation of $150 places a library with a new community partner. Every $20 purchases 10 new books for kids to “Take, Read, Share!” Give here: https://impact.udmercy.edu/rxreading
Thank you to every one of our supporters and our community partners who have “made space” for reading! Together we are raising readers and leaders in our community.
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
Thank you to the families and staff of Covenant Community Care. We are proud to partner with you!
Rx for Reading at Dickinson West Elementary School!
This September, as kids across the country get back into the swing of the school year, the students at Dickinson West Elementary in Hamtramck, MI are the proud new owners of an Rx for Reading library, along with a collection of 300 books they can “Take, Read, Share.”
According to a recent study on “Book Deserts” published in Urban Education, researchers found only one book available for purchase for every 42 children in Hamtramck. This makes it one of the lowest-access communities for children’s books in Michigan. The Rx for Reading library will be a free resource for all of the children and families at Dickinson West, and teachers and community members will help keep it stocked with books that children can take home, read, and keep.
Ms. Suzana Bosnjakovski’s 5th graders will serve as official library stewards after being “deputized” by Rx for Reading Director Mary-Catherine Harrison at the library unveiling. Thank you to Ms. Bosnjakovski, Dickinson West Principal Corey Pitts, and the entire Dickinson West community for their support of literacy and reading in Hamtramck.
Next up: Dickinson East!
Thanks to our new partnership with Brainiacs Child Development Center on the East Side of Detroit, every preschooler was able to take four brand new books home for the summer. Not only will these incredible kids have the joy of reading with their families this summer, but they will be more prepared for success next school year.
Rx for Reading at Shekinah Tabernacle!
One of the guiding principles of Rx for Reading is that reading happens everywhere. We work to put books anywhere they can get in the hands and hearts of children in Detroit.
Our latest “home” for reading is the Shekinah Tabernacle Gospel Church at 16900 West Chicago.
Shekinah Tabernacle offers a broad range of programming for children in their congregation and the surrounding community.
Thank you to the Shekinah family and to Pastor Reggie Huff and his wife Linda Huff for inviting the latest Rx for Reading Library into their church community. Just look at these happy readers!!!
“The kids love ‘their’ library!” Linda Huff
El día de los niños/El día de los libros
El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) is an annual celebration of children, families, and reading. Now in its 20th year, Día festivities across the country focus on literacy for children of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
In Southwest Detroit, Día was marked with a huge celebration in Clark Park organized by Matrix Head Start and attended by over 1,500 people. Rx for Reading was proud to contribute 915 new books for children and families who attended the event, including over 400 new Spanish and bilingual books that were funded by the UDM School Psychology Literacy Fund. All of the children who attended the event were encouraged to choose books to take home, read, and keep.
The celebration included favorite book characters, musical and cultural performances, and family activities related to reading and literacy. A highlight was a mock voting booth, where over 500 children voted for their favorite book!
Every day is a day for children and a day for books. Happy Día!
The Greatest Gifts are the Ones We Give
This holiday season, there is a whole lot of reading going on across Detroit!
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.
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.
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 Center, Cabrini Clinic, COTS 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.
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.
Thank you for giving the gift of reading to Detroit’s next generation of readers and leaders.
Bookwoman Award Presented to Mary-Catherine Harrison
The 2015 WNBA Detroit Bookwoman Award was presented to Mary-Catherine Harrison, Founder and Executive Director of Rx for Reading, “in recognition of her tireless and passionate work advocating for literacy and community engagement.”
The Women’s National Book Association was founded in 1917 and works to promote reading and support the role of women in the “community of the book”. The Detroit Chapter of the WNBA, founded in 1966, organizes local events related to books, publishing, and reading and supports non-profit organizations that promote literacy and reading, including, in 2015, Rx for Reading Detroit.
Mary-Catherine Harrison is the 17th recipient of the Bookwoman Award, which was first presented by the WNBA Detroit Chapter in 1991. The award honors Michigan women who have made significant contributions to libraries, reading, writing, or publishing. Previous winners include Rochelle Riley, columnist for the Detroit Free Press and tireless advocate for literacy, Colleen Kammer, co-owner of the independent bookstore BookBeat, Naomi Long Madgett, publisher, educator, and Detroit Poet Laureate, Terry Blackhawk, poet and founder of InsideOut Literary Arts Project, and Debra Bonde, Founder and Director of Seedlings Braille Books for Children.
Thank you to the Women’s National Book Association and WNBA Detroit for this wonderful recognition of Rx for Reading and our work on behalf of children’s literacy.
Books and Balloons in New Center Park
RX for Reading Detroit was thrilled to be part of an end-of-summer celebration of reading at New Center Park in Detroit.
Organized by one of our community partners, Detroit Little Libraries, the event included a public build of Little Free Libraries and a special recognition of Detroit as the fastest growing community of Little Free Libraries in the country. The award was presented to Aliyah Sabree, the Mayor’s Liason to City Council, by Todd Bol, founder of the international Little Free Library movement.
RX for Reading invited two local preschools to be part of the story hour festivities, which featured Paul Murphy, head speech writer for GM. Paul read the wonderful book “Silly Sally Goes to the Zoo,” written by his late wife Sally Laux Murphy. The book follows Sally, a young girl in a wheelchair, as she meets all the animals–from A to Z–at a crazy, mixed up zoo. The kids loved Sally and her animal adventures.
All of the children who attended the event chose a new book to take home from RX for Reading, and each of the preschools received a collection of books for their classroom.
Reading in the City
Reading throughout the summer is the best way to prevent “summer slide” and go back to school ready to succeed. Plus, it is a really fun way to spend summer in the city!
This summer RX for Reading partnered with Summer in the City, which offers free, 8-week camps for local kids in seven Detroit locations–Northwest Activity Center, Latino Mission Society, Delray Recreation Center, Ford LaSalle Park and Focus: HOPE, Pasteur Elementary School, Hamtramck Community Center, and Minock Park. Campers get to read, play, do arts and crafts, sports, creative writing, and take Friday Field Trips throughout the city.
RX for Reading provided a box of writing paper and new and gently used books for all seven Summer in the City camps–750 books in all. Campers got to read many of the books throughout the summer, and at “Finale Friday” kids chose whatever books they wanted to take home.
This little boy, pictured here with his sisters and mother, said as they started to walk away, “Mama, can I go back and sit in the van because I want to read my book?”
RX for Reading Celebrates Summer Reading
RX for Reading was thrilled to spend a gorgeous Wednesday at the Southwest Solutions Thrive by Five Family Fun Fair in Patton Park Recreation Center. We distributed over 350 brand new books to children and their families!
Recent UDM alum Sarah Casnovsky (English major, Class of 2015) and School Psychology graduate students Beth Jordon and Jamie Reynolds helped kids pick out the perfect book and talked with parents about the value of reading together.
Beth Jordon is not only working towards her Psy-S at UDM, she is also single mom of four. At the Thrive by Five event she was able to bond with other parents over the value of storytime. Many of the parents were thrilled to find books in Spanish that they could share with their children, and Beth was able to talk with other moms about the adventures and fun that reading inspires.
As Beth puts it, “if you learn to read and love it, the world and such rich opportunities are wide open to you!” Here is Beth and Dora the Explorer, with (of course) one of the Dora books kids could choose.
Happy Summer Reading from RX for Reading Detroit!
Thank you, Girl Scout Junior Troop 40001!
The Girl Scout Bronze Award is the highest award a Girl Scout Junior can earn. It is awarded to a troop that works together to make positive change in their community and world.
To earn their Bronze Award, the girls in Troop 40001 decided to work together to support literacy in their community. We are so grateful for their donation of over 2,000 children’s books to RX for Reading Detroit! It was a privilege to work together to sort their books and prep them for delivery to two RX for Reading Clinic Libraries in Southwest Detroit. What an incredible group of young people!
RX for Reading Detroit can only do the work we do because of organizations like Girl Scout Troop 40001. If you have books to donate or if you are part of a community organization that would like to run an RX for Reading Book Drive, please contact us. We have had Book Drives organized by preschools, elementary and middle schools, churches, libraries, even a yoga studio! Book Drives can be as big or little as you want, and RX for Reading provides all the materials you need.
Thank you to Girl Scout Junior Troop 40001 for your work on behalf of children’s literacy. You helped make our community stronger!
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
The idea behind RX for Reading Detroit is simple. Literacy is a human right. Every child should be surrounded by books.
Over the 2014-2015 academic year, RX for Reading distributed 7,546 new and gently used books to kids and community partners in Detroit. We raised $6,500 to purchase new books in English and Spanish. We built 12 RX for Reading Libraries in low-income health and dental clinics, 4 classroom libraries for local Head Start programs, and our first RX for Reading Little Free Library in Gesu Community Green. We partnered with 6 Head Start and elementary classrooms for shared reading between college students and younger students, and over 50 UDM undergraduate and graduate students were involved in growing the organization—running book drives, sorting and cleaning books, setting up libraries, and reading with kids in our community.
We are grateful for the incredible work of our community partners, for the generosity of our donors, and most of all, for each and every child in our community.
Together, we are raising readers, one book at a time.
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