When Grand County Public Library Children’s Librarian Charlotte Hurley received a phone call from Gary Mlodzik inquiring about the library’s activities for children, Hurley thought it was just another parent looking to attend Story Time. She had no idea that Mlodzik was actually calling on behalf of Kids Need to Read, a nonprofit group interested in donating books to libraries in underserved communities.
On Saturday, March 14, the library became KNTR’s first stop in a new program designed to share the love of reading with children across the country.
Mlodzik said KNTR, a program “founded with a passion to improve the lives of disadvantaged children by providing inspiring book collections and engaging literacy programs to underfunded schools, libraries, and organizations across the nation, Kids Need to Read aspires to empower and embolden every last child through a culture of reading,” has been operating for around seven years.
For the past few years, Mlodzik said the company has worked primarily over the Internet.
“People would contact us and tell us they needed 30 books for their school, and we’d do our best to meet that need,” he said. “We haven’t been out in the community before. We were looking for a way to be involved with the kids we were helping.”
Mlodzik and his wife, Tina Mlodzik, travel frequently and were already planning a trip to Moab to visit the national parks during Tina Mlodzik’s spring break. They decided it would be the perfect opportunity to go onsite, so he reached out to Hurley.
“It was kind of undercover at first,” he said. “We wanted someone who was passionate about the cause. You want to work with someone who is really excited to be doing it.”
During their conversation on the phone, Mlodzik said it was apparent that Hurley was the type of person with which the organization wanted to work.
Prior to the Saturday event, KNTR sent three boxes containing 200 books for the library to add to their shelves.
“It was like Christmas,” Hurley said. “The quality and range of books was outstanding. ...There was a huge stack of books, and every one I opened was a great book.”
Mlodzik said many of the organization’s volunteers come from “bookish” backgrounds.
“There are educators, doctors, librarians,” he said. “So when Charlotte said we need early readers and teen books, they knew what to do.”
Approximately 80 of the books the library received were already on the shelves, so the duplicates were donated to the Paradox School, Hurley said.
All the kids who attended the Saturday event were given a copy of the children’s book, “The Little Flame,” which was written by KNTR co-founder and executive director Denise Gary. They also received a copy of Highlights magazine.
The Mlodziks were joined for the event by Tom and Lindy Schneider, co-authors of the children’s book, “Starfish on the Beach.” Lindy Schneider read the book, then Tom Schneider talked to the children about starfish.
“This has been so amazing to have the chance to be involved with this,” Lindy Schneider said. “The kids were so involved, and I was so impressed with how much they knew about starfish.”
She said their book was chosen by KNTR as a featured book, so they will be traveling the country with the Mlodziks to share their love of reading.
“I’m really excited to be a part of this,” she said. “I feel like we’re making a huge difference.”
Local children are also invited to submit book reports or pictures of themselves enjoying a book to LibrarySeeds@kidsneedtoread.org in the next 30 days. In turn, Mlodzik said KNTR will donate a book to the library in the child’s name.
“It’s like the library will have a birthday every time you read a book,” Hurley told the children.
“I developed the Grow Your Library program to introduce a giving culture in the youth we meet at literacy events,” Mlodzik said. “Putting a book in the hands of a child and allowing them to expand their horizons is magical. Allowing that child to make a small effort in order to share that magic for future generations is a priceless lesson.”
The new books are located on displays throughout the library, Hurley said. In addition to picture books, the group donated several young adult books, as well as classics like Shakespeare, and “Wuthering Heights.”
“We’re really excited about it,” Hurley said. “It was so incredibly generous.”