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Mighty Writers putting thousands of books in children’s hands

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They’ve been handing out books by the thousands.

Mighty Writers, an education nonprofit organization known for providing meals, groceries and diapers, among other necessities to Philadelphia families, has added books to the arsenal of goods they distribute.

One of Mighty Writers’ main goals is to help low-income children learn to read and write. So putting books in their hands seemed like a pretty simple, but effective idea.

“Our organization is focused on kids writing, so giving out books was a no-brainer,” said Austin Clarkson, who is Mighty Writers’ director of distribution at five locations throughout the city. “Kids are still stimulating their minds even though we are not having our in-person programs. We are still doing online programs, and this was another way to get them to come out to our sites during this hard time.”

In South Philadelphia, Mighty Writers’ hub at 1025 S. 9th St. in the Italian Market has been a busy spot, as books are given away from noon to 2 p.m. on weekdays. Locations in North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, Camden and West Grove also take part in the initiative. The goal is to help children who might not have access to books, especially during the pandemic. But adults are also able to take advantage, and the need has been nonstop since April. Picture books are available for young children and novels, and other long-form stories can be grabbed by older kids or adults. Books are purchased through grants and donations and quickly distributed.

“Every day we give away books at all of our sites,” Clarkson said. “A lot of times, it’s kids coming up but sometimes it’s adults, too.”

Clarkson estimates that more than 100 books are given away at each site each week in addition to meals and groceries. The lines have stretched down the block on several occasions, but it’s a worthwhile venture. The organization also hosts contests and other incentives to help kids get interested in reading and writing.

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“They can come up during that time (noon-2 p.m.) and get a book and a meal,” Clarkson said. “We have writing contests that we’re doing as well and we feature writing contest winners with their meals so we can get their work out there.”

Many of the programs have been loved by children over the last decade. Organizers hope more take part.

“We’re a resource in the community for kids to come and be a part of our after-school programs,” Clarkson said. “We have mentoring programs, and workshops for kids. You name it, we have it. We’ve been doing it for the last 10 years.”

Since 2009, Mighty Writers specialized in in-person teachings but the pandemic caused the organization to amend its mission by going virtual with many of its programs. Mighty Writers at Home launched in March in response to the coronavirus crisis. Its workshops teach kids aged 7-17 to think and write with clarity while learning online via at-home classes.

Although virtual learning has certainly been a hit, organizers still wanted to get actual physical books to children.

“It’s really important, especially in this time when kids aren’t in school,” Clarkson said. “A lot of families don’t have access to a lot of resources so our main goal is to give them access to these resources during these hard times. Our main focus is the kids and their education.”

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