Making Our City Better One Book at a Time

One of the things I love most about living in a big(ish) city is our access to so many awesome places and programs that help others. There are a myriad of ways to be involved in community efforts. You can donate your time to pack food for the hungry (like my oldest son and I were able to do in this post), participate in fundraising runs (like these – run317.com), or even shop for a cause (as you can at this boutique – redifinedhope.com). But my favorite way to effect change (as you may have guessed by now) is through books.

The Other Wes Moore and The Power of Stories

To that end, one of the books I plan to use in my Freshman English curriculum next year is called, The Other Wes Moore – by Wes Moore. In the book, Wes Moore describes his own life and the life of another man who shares his name. They both grew up on the streets of Baltimore, fatherless, and in rough neighborhoods. One Wes ended up quite successful and wrote the book; the other Wes ended up in jail.

At the end of the book Wes Moore (the author) offers some insight about why the two men’s lives diverged the way they did. Though there are many different factors that he discusses, one of them is access to stories. He says that stories (for him, especially stories with diverse protagonists), “inspired me and countless other young people to see ourselves as capable of taking control of our own destinies, and to realize how each decision we make determines the course of our life stories.” I cannot wait to share this book with my students and see what effect such a powerful book can have on them!

Like Wes Moore, I know the power of stories in my own life; I know the power of stories in the lives of my own kids (that is what I write about constantly); I know the power of stories in the lives of my students; and I know how many kids (and adults) do not have the access to stories that they deserve. That is why I love our Indianapolis Public Library, our Indy Reads Program, and our Indy Reads Books bookstore. We spent a day exploring them this week, and I thought I would share some of their magnificence with you.

Exploring Our City’s Books – The Library

We have been loving our Indianapolis Public Library’s Summer Reading Program this year. The boys always love going to the library, turning in the books they have read, picking out their prizes, and finding new books. We typically go to our local branch, and we love it. But since the weather was rainy and we had to delay our pool plans, we decided to go downtown to the BIG library for this trip.

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Isn’t it beautiful?!

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As much as I love the modern look of the big room, my favorite part is the “Reading Room” with its gorgeous limestone, chandeliers, wood display cases, and of course – books.

We found the summer reading desk, turned in our books, collected our points, and picked out our prizes. The boys each got to pick a small prize for themselves, but I (parents get points for reading books with their kids – isn’t that awesome?!?!) used my points for something super!

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I traded my points for a book to help the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Department of Child Services and Indianapolis Public Library provide children in foster care with a backpack filled with 25 books. Of course I picked a Mo Willems book, because you all know from this post about my love for Mo! I did get a pretty rad sticker, too!

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I am so thankful that the Indianapolis Public Library has put together a program that makes it so easy for people to donate to kids in need while also helping to encourage reading in their own kids. Just by using the library’s services and putting the prizes back to good use, people can help others. Brilliant. The boys and I also made a plan to go through their books and pick more to donate to the cause.

And don’t worry, we picked up a FEW new ones to read as well…

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I can’t wait to see if the Graphic Novel version of Romeo and Juliet is any good!

Exploring Our City’s Books – Indy Reads Books

We also spent some time in our new favorite bookstore, Indy Reads Books. This place is amazing! I did, however, forget that not everything runs on a little-kid-in-the-summertime schedule, so we had to wait a few minutes for it to open. No worries though, we had some chocolate at The Best Chocolate in Town; saw an extremely timely “Don’t Care/Care” crosswalk/art exhibit (of course we pushed the button and made it say care); and shopped at another local gem, Modern Homespun Handmade while we waited (isn’t that crochet beard adorable?!).

Once we got back to the bookstore, the boys were ready to sit! Luckily for us, Indy Reads Books has a perfect set-up for kids and they were able to sit and “play” chess while I browsed the books and talked to the staff. I found some books for the boys and some for my classroom library!

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Some of the books I found were used and some were new. In fact, most of their stock is used books, but they do keep some great new books on the shelves and are happy to order just about any book you may need that is not in the store. They also love book donations! The more the merrier because their profits go directly to the Indy Reads organization, whose mission is to “promote and improve the literacy of adults and families in Central Indiana.”

We love that they are a local bookstore AND that the money they make goes to such a worthy cause. Helping adults and families get access to stories by learning literacy skills and familiarizing them with the library (the classes are often held there) could not be a more noble goal. As I was speaking to one member of the staff, I found out that the Indy Reads program offers classes to English Language Learners, kids with disabilities, homeless children and adults, and even prison inmates looking to improve their own lives through reading. I seriously don’t think I could love a program more!

The store also offers some great programs for fellow booklovers! They have their own book club, author chats/readings, times for kids to read to therapy dogs, and my personal favorite – “Drag Queen Story Hour” where Miss Mossy Stone “will read stories, sing songs, and bring to life some of your children’s favorite tales!” We haven’t made it to one of her readings yet, but events like these are what makes a local bookstore so great, and we can’t wait to add them to our schedule!!

I sincerely hope you all will check out Indy Reads Books, donate your used books to worthy causes like theirs and the collection at the Indianapolis Public Library (or your own library if you aren’t from Indy), and consider signing your own kiddos up for a summer reading program. They are so much fun and help so much to get kids excited about reading. My own boys wanted to start as soon as we were in the car and headed home!

As always, thanks for reading! Do you have a local bookstore you love? Or a local book program? Does your library have a great summer reading program? Let us know about them in the comments below or on social media. Let’s support programs that support literacy in any way we can!

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