Group encourages reading, one book at a time

In an effort to improve literacy in local at-risk children, Spread the Word Nevada has put more than 820,000 books in the hands of kids at 15 Clark County schools.

The nonprofit organization, through its program called Kids to Kids, has served more than 75,000 children since its inception in 2001.

The program adopts at-risk schools, giving each child a canvas bag. They get to select five books for themselves, to be kept in the bags. Once a month, the children receive an additional book from the program.

The school offers weekly trading sessions during which the children can trade books with the library or other kids. Kids also can trade books with students from other schools during a monthly event called Breakfast with Books. Families are invited to attend, have breakfast and storytime, all in an effort to expose children to reading.

The program is an invaluable resource for educators and will have a positive impact on kids who don’t own books or have regular access to libraries, says Lisa Habighorst, executive director of Spread the Word Nevada. She expects to distribute their 1 millionth book sometime in the spring.

“Schools calling us asking us to come. We have a waiting list that’s about 10 schools deep,” Habighorst says. “(The program) is a resource they don’t get anywhere else.”

Reading helps children develop a passion for books, Habighorst says, which ultimately will have a positive impact on their educations.

“Being that they are at risk and low income, reading is their ticket out,” she says. “If they don’t get their education, they’re going to remain where they are.”

The goal of Spread the Word Nevada is to encourage lifelong reading, Habighorst adds.

Books come from a variety of donors, including publisher overstock, sponsors and individuals. Gently used books are accepted by the organization and then cleaned by volunteers before being distributed.

The nonprofit’s $300,000 annual budget is funded by a combination of corporate sponsorship, grants, private donations and fundraisers.

To volunteer to be part of the book cleaning crew or to deliver and pick up books, call Spread the Word Nevada at 564-7809.

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