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.

UCFHS 2018 1

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.

Beatty 3

Connor Batcheller reads to the kids at Beatty Early Learning Center

Beatty 1

Mike Tartaglia reads to the kids at Beatty Early Learning Center

Beatty 2

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.

Dove 4

Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

Dove 6

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

Rx for Reading Tagline Horizontal Small

 

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.

Parkman Monster Library

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.

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?

Hamtramck Neighborhood Center

Rx for Reading Library at Hamtramck Neighborhood Center, painted by design historian and educator Grace Vandervliet.

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.

Discovery Kids 2

Choosing books from the Developing K.I.D.S. library!

“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)

Hamtramck Neighborhood Center 2 cropped

Painting the library at Hamtramck Neighborhood Center. Hamtramck Neighborhood Center is our only community partner with not one but two libraries–they are shared by the kids and seniors who use the Center.

“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.

Hamtramck Neighborhood Center I

The Reading Lounge at Hamtramck Neighborhood Center.

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

Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation

Rx for Reading Library at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, painted by Beth Reeck, art student at the Stamps School of Art and Design. Last summer eleven local artists painted Rx for Reading community libraries at Stamps, a project organized by Rebekah Modrak, Associate Professor of Art at University of Michigan.

Delray Neighborhood House

Rx for Reading Library at Delray Neighborhood House, painted by Adrian Deva, painter and art educator at University of Michigan. Delray House offers kids in Southwest Detroit opportunities to develop physically, academically, and socially through their after-school program, playground, game room, museum of local artifacts, and even a miniature theatre!

Parkman Monster Library

An extra special Rx for Reading Library at Detroit Public Library, seen here with Crystal Jolly, Children’s Librarian of the DPL Parkman Branch. This “book monster” library was painted by Michigan artist David Zinn.


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.


 

Grow in Detroit with the Christ Church Reading Camp

Christ Church I
This summer Rx for Reading was able to provide 300 new books for the Christ Church Summer Reading Camp, an annual week-long camp that welcomes children from the Franklin Wright Settlement.

Thank you to Christine Galli, Director of the Christ Church Summer Reading Camp, for writing this guest post!  


“Grow In Detroit” was our theme for this year’s Christ Church Reading Camp, and with the help of Rx for Reading Detroit, we found a spotlight book called Rooting for You. It is the story of a little seed in the ground who is experiencing change and growth in its life. The seed is in a dark place to start, but one that feels safe. As the seed starts to change shape, take root and grow upward, it runs into obstacles. The seed fears the unknown and hidden dangers, but with the help of its friends, pushes through it all to find the light! A meaningful book that tied together the children’s tending to their plants, hearing stories from real life urban farmers, and talking about their own fears of change and growth.
Rooting for You
Other books that the children read were The Enormous Potato, The Gigantic Turnip, Compost Stew, and Potatoes on the Rooftop, which includes a segment about Detroit’s urban farming. Also making an appearance were a juggler, story tellers, and members of Christ Church who take part in community farming. All in all, it was a tremendous week and we hope for the same great experience in 2017!
“We had a great week with close to 30 children and 50 volunteers, and at the end of the week each one of the children had a bagful of books, thanks to the generous donation from Rx for Reading Detroit!” Christine Galli
Christ Church 2

Brightmoor Book Squad!

Guest post by Nicky Marcot, teacher at Westside Christian Academy and community volunteer with Neighbors Building Brightmoor.  Nicky is a University of Detroit Mercy alum (English, 2007). 

Brightmoor Book SquadOn Detroit’s northwest side neighborhood of Brightmoor, Rx for Reading provided a beautiful collection of high-quality books to Brightmoor Book Squad (BBS). Over the course of two months, Kids ages 1-12 came twice a week for an hour to read together, discuss what they read, complete fun related crafts, and share a healthy snack. The students also chose books to bring home, read, and keep.

The purpose of BBS’s Summer Reading Club was to keep students reading throughout the year, help curb summer slide, and show that reading doesn’t just have to be something they do in school, but can be a fun free-time activity too. Vanessa, the grandmother of ten-year-old participant Dan, said, “I had to force him to come the first day, but after that, he couldn’t wait to come back. I’ve never seen him read this much on his own!” Thank you Rx for Reading for helping get kids like Dan excited about reading, and coming back for more!

Community members Tavia Young, Britt Bradd, Trena Ross and Sky Brown helped run the Brightmoor Book Squad this summer.