Community NewsThe Giving Project


Make Way for Books lays groundwork for success with focus on childhood literacy

Giving all children the chance to read and succeed
Posted: 8:49 AM, May 04, 2022
Updated: 2022-05-04 18:05:32-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — KGUN 9 and the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona are teaming up for a new campaign: The Giving Project—Doing Well, by Doing Good.

Each month, KGUN will spotlight one local non-profit making a positive impact on the community.

Up first for the Giving Project is Make Way for Books, an organization that focuses on childhood literacy, which is an important cause for both KGUN 9 and parent company E.W. Scripps.

Make Way for Books serves the community "so that young children never fall behind," said CEO Jenny Volpe. "That's our mission...we want to give all children the chance to read and succeed."

Part of that mission starts very early. Make Way for Books recognizes the importance of reading to your young child.

"We're working with babies, infants, toddlers, preschoolers. We know that if we can get to a child and really boost their language skills at three, it impacts their comprehension skills in 10th grade," Volpe said.

A major success for Make Way for Books is a community-based program called Story School.

Story School reaches thousands of kids who don't have access to preschool, with a weekly literacy school.

Each child receives 20 free books and guidance from family literacy specialists.

"They work with children and families in small cohorts," according to Volpe. "If we're able to have a child participate, 75 percent of them go on to score at or above benchmark in reading in kinder through third grade."

Families also get access to the free Make Way for Books app. The app fills a need the nonprofit saw four years ago.

Make Way for Books Digital Director Fernando González said, "we started creating these high quality bilingual books that we could make available on the app for free, for anybody."

We make sure to integrate it into the programs that we offer to families.

Because it's an app, because it's software, we can just make it available widely.

In fact, we made the app available nationally and then later internationally.

We are seeing usage even in other countries.

Which is amazing.
Make Way for Books Digital Director Fernando González

González says since the start of the pandemic, they've seen a huge uptick in app usage.

He's currently working on a new version of the app, that will use a timeline for a child's first five years.

According to González, "we have enough content for somebody to really start using it at zero and take it all the way through five years. In doing so, coaching the parent in how to share books effectively at each age and each developmental stage."

While the future is bright for Make Way for Books, they need the community's support to continue their mission to give all children the chance to read and succeed.

[Make Way for Books] is 100% free, free of charge for families.

Again, these are families that often can't afford preschool, some can't afford books.

In many cases we're giving them their first library.

We've had families break down in tears when they get the books.
Make Way for Books CEO Jenny Volpe

We invite you to consider making a donation to Make Way for Books. Even $5 or $10 will make a difference.

The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, our partner in the Giving Project, is matching the first $500 in donations this May.

Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.