Books for Nevada’s Children

Delivering over 50,000 books a month to at-risk children is no easy task. Bringing the joy of books to all children in Nevada started with a lot less. Co-founders Laurie Hartig and Lisa Habighorst began Spread the Word Nevada (STWN) with a garage full of books and it grew to fill up a 13,000 square foot warehouse. Driven by its mission of “advancing childhood literacy within low-income communities by changing lives one book at a time,” over half a million children in need have benefitted from the four literacy programs run by the organization: Kids to Kids, Breakfast with Books, Books on Break, and Books and Buddies. These programs help to create a well-rounded literacy experience for 44,000 children a month. “Adoption Day” for the Kids to Kids program is a momentous day for students. Students and teachers gather in the largest room in the school for a special assembly. Habighorst puts on her fun teacher voice to announce every student will receive books today and every month thereafter for as long as they are at that school. It is truly a humbling moment to watch students cheer and laugh when they hear the news. An overwhelming amount of students in Nevada struggle to maintain reading comprehension levels and STWN stands by book ownership as a solution to help overcome these obstacles. The act of choosing their own book helps children get excited about reading. “Watching a child thoughtfully choosing a book to take home is one of the greatest joys,” says Habighorst. “They are so excited to read it to their sibling or parent at home. We need this to happen for every child.” Children who grow up in a home with books are able to foster a culture of reading as an individual and as a family activity. As a result, helping to ensure the enjoyment of each students growing home library, the organization’s Breakfast with Books and Books on Break programs aim to facilitate reading outside of school. Parents join their children for Breakfast with Books before class to listen to storytime, enjoy a light snack, and educational worksheets and reading logs. Books on Break brings the books to community sites where children gather to keep them engaged during the summer months and avoid “the summer slide”. When children are not afforded the family structure to read at home, STWN’s Books & Buddies program fills in the gaps. Proudly running five Mentor Centers in Las Vegas and Henderson, “buddies” sit down with students to help grow their reading skills and confidence throughout the school year. They commit to building a relationship with their students once a week with reading aloud and playing comprehension games. As a growing nonprofit organization, it relies heavily on the kindness of volunteers—for Books & Buddies and for cleaning and preparing books for delivery. Over 24,800 hours were spent cleaning books and mentoring students in one year through the help of about 8,000 volunteers. When the organization’s mission aligns closely with the community, great things happen for those in need. Although with many schools still on the waiting list, STWN works hard to provide each school with the books and resources needed to bring students closer to full reading comprehension. Through school sponsorships, generous grants, and its annual Storybook Gala, funds raised throughout the year directly benefit students in need. In the spirit of Mary Poppins, guests will experience childlike wonder after stepping into the “Jolly Holiday” cocktail party. The “practically perfect” dinner will raise the necessary funds to grow the organization’s valuable programs into more at-risk elementary schools. The 18th Annual Storybook Gala Saturday, February 29, 2020, The Grand Ballroom at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino For more information, please visit spreadthewordnevada.org/storybook-gala