by Craig Kyzar
Photos courtesy Gloria Nguyen-Chambers and Gary Mlodzik

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Few things can ignite a developing mind like the thrill of a good book. Whether fueling the imagination for a voyage into deep space or expanding a child’s inner space right here at home, behind every cover a new world awaits—one of near infinite possibilities. Of course, this immense potential can only be unlocked by those with the access and incentive necessary to explore it, a fact which often puts some youth at a distinct disadvantage. But there is always one place where such treasures remain available to all, regardless of race, background or socioeconomic status. It has been called society’s great equalizer and the keeper of our past and future, and it’s located right around the corner at the local library!

With this truth in mind, Kids Need to Read has developed a unique new program called Grow Your Library, partnering with KNTR board member Gary Mlodzik and his wife, Tina, to give something back to these wonderful institutions in the names of the children themselves.

While the program donates a collection of new books to each selected library, this is only the beginning. After a personal visit to share story time with the children, Gary and Tina then issue a challenge to everyone in attendance, encouraging them to lead by example by turning their own love of reading into even more gifts for their community. For every child who checks out a book and reports back within thirty days after the presentation, another book is donated on that child’s behalf, with a bookplate inside the cover to commemorate their contribution. While still in its first year, the response has been as positive as it is heartwarming.

Huachuca City_GYL Gary & Tina and May'Ley_cropped

As the effects linger on long after our visit, the program provides participating kids with much more than free books. It gives them an opportunity to make a difference, further reinforcing the ties between a strong reading foundation and a sense of meaningful involvement and belonging. Just as the stories they read to complete the challenge will leave a lasting impression on them, each understands that the book donated through their effort means the donation of a new dream, waiting to be discovered by countless other children just like them. And not just for their generation but for many more to come.

Originally conceived by Gary as a way to enhance childhood literacy while increasing the foundation’s visibility, the Grow Your Library project is helping to build invaluable face-to-face relationships between Kids Need to Read and members of the community—both the leaders of today and those with big plans for tomorrow. With each library visited, the program welcomes local press to attend and witness directly the passionate commitment of the Kids Need to Read mission, and of those who make it all possible.

When we have these moments, we’re able to put a face from the community in direct contact with Kids Need to Read. We want to put KNTR in a position of visibility within the community so the community can see exactly what we do and how we make a difference. —Gary Mlodzik

Thanks in large part to the Mlodziks’ tireless work and generosity, this program provides a win for everybody involved. The libraries gain a powerful ally in the children drawn to use them. The kids get to reacquaint and personalize their relationship with a treasure that truly belongs to us all. And Kids Need to Read gets an opportunity to build first-hand a series of rewarding relationships, each of which will hopefully last a lifetime.

Learn more about Grow Your Library:

Get a book, give a book

National group donates 200 books to Moab library

Library gets book boost

Kids need to read: Huachuca City library benefits from literary foundation program

Huachuca City library - wall mural in children's room

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