For the second year in a row, Community Action Partnership of Northwest Montana (CAPNM) will be distributing children’s books throughout a four-county area, beginning in March, thanks to a grant from the Molina Foundation, only this time the shipment of 7,327 books is significantly larger.
The Molina Foundation is a national nonprofit organization based in Southern California and “focused on reducing disparities in access to education and health.” Its “Book Buddies” program is designed for children from low-income families who often grow up in “word deserts,” which the group describes as “having few books in their classrooms and even fewer at home.”
“Without access to words,” the Molina Foundation states, “it becomes very difficult for children and families to navigate the education and health care systems.”
Tracy Diaz, executive director of CAPNM, said her organization applied for the Molina book grant in 2017 and received 2,400 books, which it distributed throughout 2018 and recently gave away the last of the haul.
After the program’s success, CAPNM applied again, this time for more books and a wider age range, with materials appropriate for toddlers through eighth-graders. Though CAPNM’s ambitions intersect with Molina’s specific mission, Diaz said her organization’s goal locally with the book drive has a broader objective.
“CAP is more interested in getting books into the community for all kids,” she said. “The focus is low income, but it’s for all kids and it’s about trying to build and increase family engagement.”
Diaz said reading is a way to promote family engagement, as parents can do it with their kids, and the book program offers a diverse selection of high-quality educational materials. This year’s shipment comes with flash cards and other hands-on learning accouterments.
The books are currently in a warehouse, but CAPNM staff will begin separating the shipment into 25-book bundles and distributing them in March. Last time, the books were distributed to a wide variety of organizations and institutions, including literacy groups, free and reduced children centers, the Boys and Girls Club, CASA, health care clinics, after-school programs, United Way, Abbie Shelter, Samaritan House and more.
A restriction preventing CAPNM from giving the books to public schools no longer applies, so local schools can contact CAPNM to inquire about receiving books.
In addition to the bundles dispensed to nonprofits, the organization offers individual books at its office lobby and during outreach efforts, such as while weatherizing a home. Every book has to be accounted for and documented, Diaz said.
The 7,327 books are valued at $60,935, paid for by the Molina grant, although CAPNM was responsible for shipping costs.
Anyone interested or who knows of an organization interested in receiving the books can contact Tracy or Jackson Diaz at (406) 758-5431 or (406) 752-6565, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAPNM serves Flathead, Sanders, Lincoln and Lake counties, with a main office in downtown Kalispell. Its mission is to “provide direct services, advocate to alleviate poverty, improve lives and strengthen our communities.”