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Sunday, March 03, 2024
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Courtesy of Madison Reading Project

Madison Reading Project aims high with new Big Red Reading Bus

The Madison Reading Project delivered its 100,000th book of the year to the Salvation Army in the initiative's 10th year.

The Madison Reading Project delivered its 100,00th book of the year to the Salvation Army on Darbo Drive, the very place where the initiative originated a decade ago.

Established in 2013, The Madison Reading Project is a nonprofit dedicated to providing free books and closing the literacy gaps in the greater Dane County area. Since its inception, the nonprofit has provided over 490,000 books to children and conducted extensive literary programs. 

Madison Reading Project introduced the “Big Red Reading Bus” five years ago, a mobile book service that partners with local communities and schools to deliver books to children. 

Project founder Rowan Childs told The Daily Cardinal the bus marked a significant shift in their approach to delivering books directly to children. 

“We want to remove as many barriers as possible,” Childs said. “Driving to where kids go to school, after school programs and community events has been so impactful to our book giving efforts.” 

The nonprofit has been steadily growing and recently underwent a significant change — Madison Reading Project now provides brand new books to children participating in all their programming. 

“Knowing that all children receive brand new books, and having that moment of a fresh book that has not been opened, read, and putting their name in the book is emotional,” Childs said. “When we take a look at the thousands of kids we’ve helped by increasing book ownership, [it] is an amazing feature. I am so proud of our team and board for being able to do this for kids in the community.”

Childs has her sights set on a lofty goal: to give away 1 million books by the end of 2025.

“In the next three years, we plan for more growth through geographic expansion of the area we serve, doubling the number of community partnerships and increasing our program capacity,” Childs said.

Another way the nonprofit intends to achieve its goal is through the implementation of their new initiative, the Big Red Reading Bus 2.0. The new vehicle triples the current reading bus capacity to nearly 6,000 books, increases delivery efficiency and expands the organization's programming into more of southern Wisconsin.

The new bus also complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, making it accessible for more young readers.

“The addition of our Big Red Reading Bus 2.0 will change things astronomically for [the Madison Reading Project],” Childs said.

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