What would you do if you managed to receive thousands of brand-new children's books every year from high-quality publishers? How would you get them into the hands of young people all over Idaho who need them?

I founded the Literacy Project years ago to support grassroots educational initiatives that directly affect the lives of children. Our goal is to get books into their hands. My wife and our kids love to help give away the books.

From "Veggie Tales" to Dr. Seuss, from "Thomas the Train" to pop-ups about sharks and megabeasts, the Literacy Project distributes books for younger readers and teens free of charge. We work through shelters, schools, learning centers, families, government agencies, churches and businesses who serve families in our community.

My family has approached several local leaders to ask for help in getting the books to the people who deserve them the most — Idaho children. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People like Vickie Holbrook and the staff of the Idaho Press-Tribune helped to get several dozen books to the two domestic violence shelters in Canyon County: the Valley Crisis Center and Hope's Door.

Karen Ganske and her crew at the Nampa Public Library have integrated hundreds of books from the Literacy Project into their summer reading and other initiatives. Art Evans and the specialists at Advocates for Inclusion have distributed many books through their developmental and charity programs.

It has been delightful to watch Carol Supino and Dawn Callaham of the Nampa Chamber of Commerce make sure that several books were given out at the health fair and other public events. At the Nampa Boys and Girls Club, Mitch Minnette worked a large group of donated books into his programs, and the Nampa Civic Center passed along its allotment to the same children.

In the business community, Anytime Fitness manager Kim Rose helps bring books to local classrooms. Jaime Valdes, manager of the Bank of America branch in Nampa, puts the books out for patrons. Andrew Meecham and Bodie Jones from Northwestern Financial Network helped get some to a crisis center.

At Northwest Nazarene University, education department chair Karen Blacklock gave books to cooperating master teachers who supervise student teachers, and to the latter who are starting to collect books for their classroom libraries. Mike Echanis helped get titles to parents who participate in the Idaho State University TRIO program.

Several other local schools have joined in the effort, with teachers and administrators too numerous to mention. Educators have helped to make sure that books were given to the appropriate students hailing from a wide variety of grade levels, reading levels, interests and backgrounds.

While economic times are tough, the Treasure Valley should be proud to have so many people who give of their time and energy to help the cause of literacy in Idaho. Our thanks goes out to all those who have helped us get books to the children, keeping our community strong.

- Michael Strickland teaches writing at the College of Western Idaho. You can e-mail him at author@michaelrstrickland.com.


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