By Oscar Wolfe
I just had my Bar Mitzvah—that’s why I haven’t been able to post as much lately. A huge part of a Bar Mitzvah is giving back to the community. I love to read so it made sense to me that the way I could give back was with the thing I love. I did some research and discovered Read Indeed, an organization that provides books to kids in need. My family and I decided to mix decorations with donations for my Bar Mitzvah lunch and gather children’s books to use as centerpieces and then donate them to Read Indeed.
The founder, Maria Keller, was only 8 years old when she started Read Indeed! Ten years later, now a senior in high school, Maria has donated more than 2.2 million books to kids in all 50 states and the rest of the world. I talked to Maria about the great work she’s doing.
What got you interested in doing this? Why was education the issue you decided to do something about?
I have always loved to read and one day when I was 8 years old I began noticing how some kids just weren’t into reading as much as me. My mom explained that some kids simply don’t like to read whereas others don’t have books. I thought that was totally unfair and wanted to change that to give all kids the same opportunities. Reading is absolutely essential to doing well in school…it obviously helps your comprehension, but being a solid reader impacts how well you do in math and impacts your logic and reasoning skills in many other subjects.
Where do the books go, and how do they make a difference?
They are distributed to low income kids in schools, middle clinics, homeless shelters, churches, food shelves, etc. Books give kids the opportunity to delve into stories that may help them ‘escape’ from some of the real struggles in their lives, if only for a little while. Books expose them to concepts and ideas that they may have never have heard about.
We do have public libraries….why do you think it’s so important for kids to have books of their own?
Public libraries are essential. However, often low income kids don’t have transportation to get to public libraries. And studies show that kids who have books in their home, specifically books they own, perform better in school.
What’s the hardest part about running a non-profit at such a young age?
I spend about 10 hours a week, but more in the summer. It has been hard, but I’ve had so many volunteers who help me. I haven’t really given anything up…I just choose to make Read Indeed a big part of my life.
What’s the best part of running a non-profit at such a young age?
You learn so much and are exposed to so many different experiences you may not have had. It is extremely challenging too and I love to be challenged.
What do you see for the future of Read Indeed, and do you plan to keep doing it after high school?
Read Indeed will continue as long as we have the funding to make it happen. We are having a big gala event on May 19 which is my 18th birthday and my original goal to collect 1 million books. I’ve gifted 2.3 million gifts so more than double. When I head to college, I will still oversee Read Indeed as best as I can, but then my 13-year-old brother will take the reins and lead the organization.
What’s your favorite book?
The Book Thief.
What advice do you have for other kids who want to do something great?
Just start small. You don’t have to do something as big as I’ve done. Remember that every little act of kindness makes the world a better place.
Get involved with Read Indeed by donating money or books, organizing a book drive, or volunteering at the Read Indeed warehouse in Hopkins, Minn. Visit readindeed.org.