Of all the books the Madison Reading Project has donated this year, a special one ended up in the hands of a Sun Prairie family through the annual Spirit of Giving campaign.
In early December, the Madison Reading Project donated its 25,000th book of 2017 to James Ackley, principal of Royal Oaks Elementary School. Ackley, also a volunteer with Spirit of Giving, incorporated the book – and 199 others donated by Madison Reading Project – into the gifts that were distributed Dec. 9 through Spirit of Giving.
Ackley said the more than 400 books they distributed were bonus gifts for families in this year’s campaign, given in addition to the children’s gifts that parents request. Volunteers at the gift distribution worked to match children with books they would be interested in that are at their reading level.
“One of the things that I’ve learned as an elementary principal is kids need to read books at their level, and after you put so much time in reading books at your level that’s how you grow as a reader,” Ackley said. “They’re not going to be able to grow their volume if you don’t give them books.”
In 2017, Madison Reading Project worked with 60 local partners to give books and inspire reading to more than 16,500 children in south-central Wisconsin.
In Sun Prairie, Madison Reading Project works with Northside Elementary School and Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School in addition to Royal Oaks Elementary School to donate books to kids in need.
Northside Elementary School was the first partnership Madison Reading Project began with a school, said Outreach Director Carrie Castree. There, the organization started a birthday book program, where kids in higher need can choose a brand new book to take home on their birthday. Madison Reading Project also holds all-school book giveaways.
“Our main goal is to get books in the hands of kids who need them in order to really establish a home library for kids who maybe don’t have books at home,” Castree said.
And the books they provide are exciting for kids, Castree said, often something that their peers are reading.
“We also want to just encourage the fun of reading and the escape that it provides for kiddos who have additional struggles,” she said.
Additionally, Madison Reading Project provides literacy programming at Northside and Royal Oaks such as a book of the month story time and coordinating author visits. The programs engage students with the book through writing prompts and questions to make the programming align with the school’s curriculum, Castree said.
Castree added that Madison Reading Project relies heavily on volunteers to connect them to quality new and gently used children’s books, with a primary focus on children in fifth grade and younger.