One of the not-so-secret ingredients to the success of Kids Need to Read and the work we do is our highly valued team of volunteers. In an effort to show our appreciation and reflect upon their importance, we have interviewed some of the people who help our organization grow, function, and succeed.

Today we’re talking with Marianne Luskey. Originally hailing from Scotland, Marianne (or MJ) began volunteering with KNTR during its earliest days and continues to support the organization in its marketing efforts. We’ll learn why she considers her fellow volunteers a part of her tribe, the importance of middle and high school literacy efforts, and her special interest in seeing books transition from print to screen.


KNTR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Marianne: I was born and raised in Scotland and moved to the U.S. about 20 years ago. I moved to Arizona to be closer to my dad and family, who are all natives of Phoenix. I am a member of the Kids Need to Read marketing team and help promote them with press releases, overseeing media mailing lists, and managing the Google AdWords account and other projects as needed.

While living in Phoenix, I helped plan and attend many fundraising events, including Phoenix Comicon, the Fairy Festival, and the Arizona Renaissance Festival every year.

How did you become involved with KNTR?

I was a fan of the sci-fi show Firefly and happened to read online one day that Nathan Fillion was a co-founder of a charity called The Kids Need to Read Foundation.  After visiting the website, I was impressed by the charity’s mission and dedication. I sent a volunteer request that same day.

Within a few days [Executive Director] Denise Gary, one of the other co-founders, contacted me to let me know she lived locally. We met at a Starbucks to discuss what I could do to help out and I was excited to learn more. While talking to Denise, I noticed she was an energetic, giggling, positive person who had such faith in the charity and the opportunities ahead. I knew then that I had made the right decision to volunteer.

What is your favorite thing about working alongside KNTR?

I actually have two things that I love. First, spending time with the children. I have planned and attended many fundraising events for KNTR, and it is wonderful to see so many kids light up and smile when we present them with a Highlights magazine, a free book, or a button. When I first volunteered, I had no idea how many schools, libraries, and literacy programs were in desperate need for new books. That is what makes it all worthwhile for me, touching the lives of so many children.


Second, the amazing staff and volunteers that I have had the privilege to work with! It’s great to find people who are just as dedicated as you are to providing new books and programs across the U.S. I have worked alongside volunteers to help move the KNTR offices to another building, packaged up books to send out to schools and libraries, attended events and currently provide marketing support. I have made lifetime friendships with so many. Many of the volunteers are geeks like me; I call them a part of my tribe.


In what ways have books played a part in your own life?

I have been an avid reader since I was a small child, when I would visit the local library every Saturday morning. I loved the fact that, for a short time, you could imagine yourself in another world, another time. Growing up in Scotland, there were many days you stayed home due to the weather, especially in the winter months. I was the only child at home at that time and books kept me company. My grades in school were excellent and I believe my love of reading helped me succeed.

Many times as a child I got in trouble because I would continue to read my book after bedtime. I would sneak out of my room and turn the upstairs hall light on, which gave me just enough light to continue on my book. My mum found me many times asleep still holding the book. I loved to read the classics and my favorite type of children’s book was the one where you could decide where to continue with the story.

What is one of your favorite books? What are you reading right now?

I don’t have one favorite book; there are so many excellent choices! I read many genres, so it is hard to narrow them down. Recently I have been reading a book called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. The book tells the story of a poor Chinese girl a hundred years ago, and her relationship with her best friend while both deal with having their feet wrapped smaller to find suitable husbands. It is very moving, and I love the main characters.

I also love The Looking Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor and have read many Neil Gaiman novels. I like to read books that are adapted to the screen later on, including Hunger Games, Wayward Pines, and of course Harry Potter. I love to read a book and then watch the movie or TV show to see how close my vision of the characters and places match up with the director’s vision.


If you could tell someone one thing about the organization, what would it be?

That KNTR is so much more than a children’s literacy charity. We reach out to all children, from kindergarten up to high school, no matter their race, capabilities, and family finances. It’s refreshing to see, since many literacy charities focus mainly on elementary aged children. Studies show middle school and high school students are in desperate need of books and programs that help reduce dropout rates. KNTR has many programs, including READ Together—which encourages caregivers to spend time with their children—and the Kids-N-Peace program, which offers projects and presentations to promote nonviolent alternatives in schools and life.

It has been great to see the charity grow. When I started in 2008, Denise was still working out of her home, as was Debbie Robinson, the previous Operations Director. Within a few years they were able to rent office space, and have continually rented more and more space as the need for books has increased tremendously.

Final thoughts or anything you’d like supporters to know?

I thank supporters for their support and kindness. With their help, KNTR is able to provide books and literacy programs to many areas of the U.S.

Also: read, read, read! No matter what age you are, there will always be a book to spark your imagination and take you to a different world, if just for a short time.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Marianne, and thanks for all that you do on behalf of the organization!

Kids Need to Read is always looking for volunteer support. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, please write to for more information.


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