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Cleveland Kids' Book Bank gives hundreds of thousands of free books to kids in need

Cleveland kids in need got thousands and thousands of books through the Kids\' Book Bank. Photo courtesy WEWS

By Homa Bash

    Cleveland, OH (WEWS) -- Tucked away in a warehouse in midtown Cleveland, you will find thousands upon thousands of books.

They're brand-new, slightly used, and there's every single genre you can imagine.

It is the Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank, a program with the goal of putting books in the hands of every child in Cuyahoga County.

“We think of ourselves as the counterpart to the food bank. They are food for the body, we’re food for the brain,” said volunteer coordinator Leslie Mazzola.

The book bank was started by Judy Payne and Judi Kovach in late 2015. Less than two years after its inception, more than 700,000 books have been distributed to children in the area.

They partner with organizations like WIC and and school districts to put books in the hands of kids, hoping they can create their own home libraries. They also stock Little Free Libraries throughout the city.

They started it because literacy rates in the Greater Cleveland area are shockingly low.

According to Seeds of Literacy, 66 percent of Cleveland residents are functionally illiterate. It is a hard-to-break cycle that begins at home — and at a young age.

“Two out of three low-income kids don’t own a single book,” Mazzola said. “And I didn’t know that before I started working here. It brought tears to my eyes to think about that, because I grew up in a home with tons of books myself and I can’t imagine what it’s like.”

With thousands of books in the warehouse, the organization is in need of volunteers to help sort and pack books for distribution. They also host a Young Professionals night each month, called “Books and Brews.”

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