Giant Giveaway: 16,000 Free Books for Tempe Families

January 27, 2021

Read On Communities

Generous grant supports schools, nonprofits, city programs

More children and families in Tempe are able to read and learn together thanks to the distribution of 16,000 new free books to schools, nonprofits and city programs.

That means preschoolers exploring new adventures during story time. Teens adding books to the shelves at their homes. Parents and caregivers ensuring that their children can keep reading during school breaks, especially important during the pandemic.

The trove of new books came through The Molina Foundation and Read On Arizona, which distributed more than 70,000 free books - enough to fill a library shelf three football fields long – to select Arizona communities.

The books went to six Acceleration Zone communities focused on increasing early literacy skills. Tempe is one of those zones and has been working to boost kindergarten readiness and future school success through Read On Tempe, with a focus on children ages 0 – 6 in the Thew/Escalante community.

“Reading or being read to improves language skills by learning new words, learning about our world, or by learning new ways to express feelings, emotions or thoughts,” said Tempe’s Human Services Director Naomi Farrell. “Increasing access to books for Tempe’s children is a vital step in helping us work toward our goal of 65% of Tempe’s residents achieving a post-secondary degree or certificate by the year 2030.”

Stacks of books

Tempe helped coordinate the distribution of books for four local Acceleration Zones, sorting and organizing roughly 75,000 new books that included everything from board books for babies to novels for adults.

Locally, Tempe handed out 16,000 books to three school districts, several community organizations and a range of city programs. The new books will touch lives in a variety of ways.

For instance, Tempe PRE, the city’s preschool program, was able to build up classroom libraries and also send two new books home with each student. Mountain Park Health Center handed out wrapped books to families during the holidays and will use the remaining supply for new patients. Tempe Elementary School District filled school libraries with new books that elementary and middle school students can check out.

Tempe Police Department gave away roughly 100 books during its Shop With Your Cops event and has more on hand for officers, detectives and staff to use while on calls for service or as part of community outreach efforts.

"As children and families remain isolated, these books will allow our officers to create dialog, connect in a meaningful way and promote literacy," said Det. Natalie Barela.

More than 1.5 million books were given away nationwide through The Molina Foundation’s Families Learning Together campaign as a way to place free learning resources into the hands of children, parents, and caregivers.

Part of the goal is to encourage literacy and reading skills during summer and school breaks as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Reading programs have been proven to reduce or even eliminate this loss in learning, according to the foundation.

The Molina Foundation is a Southern California-based nonprofit dedicated to the mission of reducing disparities in access to education and health. Learn more:

Read On Arizona is a statewide, public/private partnership of agencies, philanthropic organizations, and community stakeholders committed to creating an effective continuum of services to improve language and literacy outcomes for Arizona’s children from birth through age eight. Learn more:

The City of Tempe’s Education, Family & Community Support section supports Mayoral and Council initiatives, working with our local school districts and higher education partners to facilitate the success of all Tempe children, families and seniors ages 50 and older by aligning with city resources. Learn more:

Media contact: Susie Steckner, or 480-734-5186