14 Aug ICNE Community Spotlight: Get to Know Link to Libraries
At ICNE, one of our most important priorities is to be actively involved in the communities we serve. That’s why we contribute to a variety of local organizations and events from Western and Central Massachusetts to North of Boston. As part of our ongoing support, we would like to introduce a new spotlight series that will not only draw your attention to these organizations individually, but also provide a background on all the amazing things they do for the communities and people they serve.
ICNE President and CEO Bill Trudeau says, “Community involvement is part of our DNA, a fact that matters to many of our clients and partners. Therefore, we wanted to feature some of the non-profits we work with so that people can not only get to know another facet of ICNE, but also be introduced to some pretty terrific organizations.”
In our first-ever spotlight, we would like to introduce you to one of these outstanding organizations, Link to Libraries of Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut.
About Link to Libraries
Link to Libraries was founded in 2008 by Susan Jaye-Kaplan and Janet Crimmins, two friends who were determined to create a solution for the shortage of books in the many schools and homes in our community. The organization has since become the largest distributor of books to underserved youth in this area and serves children in 75 school districts including Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke, and Palmer.
ICNE spoke with Laurie Flynn, President and CEO of Link to Libraries, to find out more about the impact of this amazing non-profit. “Over the past decade, we’ve donated over 500,000 new books to school libraries as well as to children in need, many of whom had never previously owned a book,” says Flynn.
Flynn goes on to say how important it is for a child to have access to literature at a young age. “The research is very clear that learning to read is a child’s best chance for success in school and in life. By increasing a child’s access to books and by modeling good reading behaviors, we are dramatically increasing their chances of leading healthy, productive, successful lives. Reading expands their minds and broadens their understanding of themselves and the big wide world around them. Books are truly the gateway to possibility.”
Volunteering for Link to Libraries
Link to Libraries offers several community programs that further the mission of their organization including the Read Aloud program which connects an adult volunteer with a classroom of 3rd or 4th graders in the area. Volunteers are not only provided with the requisite training and books to read to their class each month, but also with enough books to give out to students so that each child has their own personal library by the end of the year.
Through the Read Aloud program, volunteers form close relationships with their students as the year goes on. Flynn shares, “Many of the children we serve don’t have a lot of adults in their lives that they can count on to show up regularly for them. However, when they see their reader taking time out of their day to come once a month to spend time with them, it not only provides a model for good reading behaviors, but it also sends a message to these children that they are valued. And that is worth its weight in gold.”
Business Book Link is another one of Link to Libraries’ strong community volunteer programs, pairing local businesses with underserved schools. These local businesses then help to provide the much needed funds to grow a school’s library. However, the relationship that these businesses create with the school typically goes much further than just monetary donations.
Through the Business Book Link program, a company’s employees can be paired with classrooms for the Read Aloud program. In addition, being a Business Book Link Sponsor means a company has the opportunity to address another need the school may have like new library furniture or school supplies for teachers. Many Business Book Link sponsors have gone above and beyond outside the classroom as well, arranging tours of their workplaces, sponsoring field trips, or even providing children with coats and mittens.
ICNE is very proud to be a Business Book Link Sponsor. We’ve been matched with the Martin Luther King Charter School in Springfield and have been able to donate over 300 new books each year since the beginning of our relationship in 2014. ICNE President, Bill Trudeau, along with many other ICNE employees, enjoys volunteering monthly to read in classrooms and, even more, letting students choose the book they want to keep after the visit.
Says Flynn, “We are so grateful to all our sponsors and hopeful that more will decide to join us in our mission. There is so much need here in Western Massachusetts, and we rely on the support of the local community to help us provide these children with the skills they need to increase the odds that they will have happy, successful lives.”
Link to Libraries Responds to the Changing Needs of Our Communities
In addition to the successful Read Aloud and Business Book Link programs, Link to Libraries has another worthwhile program called Reading Any Place, which is always looking for volunteers and other types of support. Working with Square One, HAP Housing, and local school districts, Reading Any Place has provided nearly 2,500 homeless children, from infants to seventh graders, with books and toys.
From school year to school year, it’s hard to predict the challenges these schools will face. When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico last year, Link to Libraries was there to help ease the transition of children fleeing the devastation. Explains Flynn, “With area schools experiencing a significant influx of students from Puerto Rico, many of whom did not speak English, we knew we needed to step up and help.”
Certainly, none of these programs or donations could happen without all of the volunteers and supporters that make up the Link to Libraries family. These volunteers help plan fundraising events, work in the warehouse moving and labeling books, and read to students in their classrooms as guest readers. Flynn tells us, “Our volunteers range in age from four to eighty years old, and they truly come from all walks of life. But the best part is that they all share a passion for reading and the belief that books build brighter futures.”
We hope that you enjoyed reading about Link to Libraries. For ICNE’s next non-profit spotlight, we will introduce you to Guidewire of Western Massachusetts, an organization that helps adults of all ages with developmental and behavioral disabilities live full, independent lives.