by Gary Mlodzik
Photos by Yuli Andrade, Lupita Torres and Gary Mlodzik

We are beyond blessed by your organization’s generosity and commitment to sharing the love of reading with our children. —Vikki Cervantes, City Librarian

These kind words were written after a Grow Your Library story time event that almost failed to come together. Perseverance made it all happen.

Making a donation is not always easy but always worth the effort! After many hours of research, looking for a community library that fit the profile as a candidate for the Grow Your Library program, I initiated contact with the Porterville Public Library in Porterville, CA. After what seemed like a lengthy period of nonresponse to my voice mails and emails, I was giving up hope for a collaboration. Determined not to give up, I made what I had felt would be my final call. I spoke with a Library Supervisor, who explained that I probably sounded like a salesman, so my inquiries would not be returned. Well, I explained, I am a salesman, but I am actually calling to make a donation! I left one more voice mail and followed up with yet another email. Two days later, I received a call from Vikki and an informative discussion led to an agreement to host a Kids Need to Read Grow Your Library event at the Porterville Library on March 15, 2016.

Tina Mlodzik handpicked a selection of 200 books from the KNTR inventory to meet the most pressing needs of the library. The books, with a retail value of $1,340, were soon shipped off to Porterville.

004 - GYL Porterville, CA book donation

Porterville is primarily an agricultural community of about 54,000 people, located north of Bakersfield, just outside of Sequoia National Park. Just over one-fourth of the community lives below the poverty level. The Grow Your Library program looks for community libraries which may struggle financially to put literary resources into the hands of local patrons.

Arriving at the library on March 15th, Tina and I met Vikki and her gracious staff. All doubts about whether this location was the proper fit were removed immediately. The staff was so accommodating; they knew their patrons; the kids loved Sandi Farnsworth, the hostess of the morning story time; and kids and parents and grandparents were happy to be there.

106 - Tina reading to AM kids

After Sandi got the wiggles out of the children with a playful song, Tina read Starfish on the Beach, by Tom and Lindy Schneider to the group of 24 kids. This book has a joyful message of how the smallest of kindhearted actions can make an impact. We all have that opportunity to make a difference. A raffle drawing was held and 2 year old Laramie was the lucky winner of a real starfish and a copy of Starfish on the Beach.

IMG_2486 - AM starfish winner Laramie Fyfe

The highlight of the morning came when Mr. & Mrs. Sanchez came up to Tina and I after story time and thanked us for visiting their community. Mrs. Sanchez told us they were both teachers for over 30 years in the area and that we were sharing a wonderful program.

In the evening, library staffer Nancy Ramos hosted the first bilingual story hour for the Grow Your Library program. Tina and Ruby Lemus read thru Starfish on the Beach one page at a time, first in English, then Spanish for the 19 attendees and their adult companions.

207 - PM story time group - cropped

The lucky winner of the starfish and Starfish on the Beach book during the bilingual session was 6 year old Kimberly.

211 - cropped Ruby, Tina, Kimberly, Gary and Nancy

Every child in attendance was offered the opportunity to email Gary and Tina within 30 days of the event and tell their name, age and what they like to read. By doing so, a new book would be donated in the child’s name to the Porterville Library for all library patrons to enjoy. This is the child’s chance to make a difference, a lasting contribution to impact the lives of children who will visit the library in the future.

Porterville Library is the fifth library served by Grow Your Library, having previously assisted libraries in Moab, Utah; Hibbing, Minnesota; Kewaskum, Wisconsin; and Huachuca City, Arizona. In addition to the books provided to the library, each participating child is given a new book and Highlights magazine to keep.

March 15th was filled with smiles, laughs, learning, and adults sharing reading time with children and building memories to last a lifetime. Grow Your Library events are made possible by donations to Kids Need to Read. We thank Candlewick Press, as well as authors Cindy Callaghan, David Adler, Elizabeth Eulberg, Tony DiTerlizzi, and Chris Grabenstein for their generous donations of books to the program. If you would like to make contributions of new books to Kids Need to Read, please write to


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