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Helping spread the joy of reading, one book at a time

by United We Serve Team

For most teenagers, the stresses of school, homework, friends, and extra-curricular activities are enough to fill the daily schedule. But not for Zoe Gates.

As a third grader in Andover, Massachusetts, Zoe Gates realized that she wanted to contribute to her community in a bigger way and work on a unique project that would benefit others. Zoe and one of her friends, both avid readers, decided to launch a book drive so that other children could experience the same joy and excitement they felt whenever they read a book.

The girls scoured their own bookshelves and began spreading the word to their friends. They placed large cardboard boxes in the classrooms at their school and made announcements at recess encouraging other students to get involved. A few short months later, the girls’ mothers drove them into Boston with cars filled with more than 200 books to present to Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit organization that prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. Doctors, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals incorporate Reach Out and Read’s evidence-based model into regular pediatric checkups, by advising parents about the importance of reading aloud and giving developmentally-appropriate books to children.

“It feels amazing to know I am giving the gift of reading to kids who would probably not have it otherwise,” said Zoe. “I believe that everyone should have a chance to enjoy it too.”

Now 13, Zoe continues to organize book drives for Reach Out and Read Programs across Massachusetts. Over the past few years she’s collected books from many sources and enlisted the help of public schools, libraries, and Girl Scout troops; she’s collected nearly 20,000 books for Reach Out and Read. What started as a simple desire to help enrich the lives of children like her has become a full-blown mission to put books into the hands of the children who need them most.

“In the true spirit of giving, Zoe has supported ROR because she thinks it's an extraordinary program -- she never seeks recognition or accolades,” said Joan Gates, Zoe’s mother.“For Zoe, the reward is the satisfaction she gets when she walks into a crowded waiting room at a clinic and understands that she is truly making a difference.”

Zoe’s resourcefulness and desire to help others has made a tremendous impact on the lives of the children who receive the books she works hard to collect.

To learn more about the doctors and volunteers who are making a difference through Reach Out and Read, visit http://www.reachoutandread.org/.

Click here to read more Strong Minds stories.

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