The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Donation fights illiteracy across UP with free books


March 16, 2018

Larry Holcombe/Daily Globe

BOOKS DONATED by the Molina Foundation, of California, were given out with chairs that were auctioned off at the Gogebic County Fair in Ironwood last August. More than 14,000 books were distributed throughout the U.P. from the foundation's donation.


Ironwood - The Michigan State University Gogebic County Extension office still has books left over from a $103,660 gift last year from a nonprofit southern California charity.

The Molina Foundation recapped the award this week after most of the books had already been distributed across the Upper Peninsula.

Erin Ross, of the MSU-Extension Bessemer office, said her small staff carried out distribution of the books at U.P.-wide events such as the Gogebic County Fair. She is MSU's youth coordinator for the U.P.

Called "Book Buddies Across Michigan," Ross said finding a place to store the 14,074 books and sorting them out before they were given away was a big part of the task.

The Molina Foundation continues to give away new children's books to nonprofit agencies that serve low-income, high-need communities following last year's successful campaign.

The 23,434 books given out in Michigan last year were enough to fill a library shelf more than a half-mile long.

The story, activity and work/study books came from a variety of publishers and authors. They were distributed for children from birth through high school. The Michigan books had a total estimated value of $174,524, so the U.P. received more than half of the state's donation.

"The Molina Foundation believes that giving new books to children and families can be an effective way to reinforce storytelling at home and create opportunities to build household libraries. Research has shown that the single most significant factor influencing a child's early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school," said Rick de la Torre, communications coordinator for the Molina Foundation.

"Michigan, particularly in its upper rural areas, continues to have significant academic achievement gaps - including competency in basic reading skills - between children in poverty and their better off peers. There is a strong correlation between illiteracy and its impact on a community's socio-economic progress," he said.

The Molina Foundation launched campaigns last year that covered 21 other states.

"The education of our children is the single most important preventative step we can take to ensure their success later in life," said Molina Foundation President Dr. Martha Bernadett. "Simply having books in the home increases a child's chances of success enormously."

The Molina Foundation mission is reducing disparities in access to education and health. Since its inception in 2004, the foundation has partnered with more than 2,000 organizations and schools around the country to promote literacy and wellness.

In addition, it has donated more than 5 million new children's books in English and Spanish, and hosted hundreds of free workshops and programs for educators, families and children.


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