Years ago when Rowan Childs, Founder and CEO of the Madison Reading Project was searching for ways to help her son who was experiencing reading challenges additional support, she stumbled onto a sad reality in our world. That too many children were being underserved in reading programs. That too many children lived in families lacking the resources to help these children become strong, independent readers.  

As Ahmad Ardaian wrote “sometimes in life, a sudden situation, a moment in time, alters your whole life, forever changes the road ahead.”

This experience opened Rowan’s eyes. She looked at literacy rates and saw that the majority of children living in low income families had no books in their homes. NO books. As Rowan pondered what could one person do to make a difference she knew as one person she had to take an action to make a difference and so the Madison Reading Project began.

The beginnings of the Madison Reading Project was through a pilot program where they partnered with the Salvation Army for a three month pilot program.  This was not just about giving these children any books. It was about taking the time and thoughtfulness to determine what interests these children had and what books they would want to read. Rowan and a few volunteers worked with the children to get to know their wants and needs in regards to reading. As the program ended each child was able to select a book they would be able to keep. As Rowan watched the children beam with pride about choosing their very own book to keep it was a powerful moment. Reading and having a book could be a way to empower these children to become more confident in reading and in their daily living.

One book can make a difference to one child.

As the Madison Reading Project began to grow so did the number of volunteers, employees, and programs, yet the core of this non-profit remained the same. Who can the Madison Reading Project best serve and what are their needs. This mighty non-profit is dedicated to making sure that children of all areas, especially ones that people might not consider, have a Madison Reading Project experience. Have the opportunity to see the joy of reading and choose a book that is all theirs. 

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world:indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

This quote embodies the love, dedication, and determination the Madison Reading Project lives and breathes who they are. When challenges come their way they find a way to hurdle around them using creative and innovative problem solving. When COVID19 hit they did not stop in their mission to be accessible to everyone. As this non-profit grew there was intention and learning in how they wanted to be. Community involvement is part of the solution to see the Madison Reading Project thrive. As their fearless leader Rowan is a believer in “you don’t know unless you try” so she will reach out to anyone who could partner with this amazing group.

This group recently gave away it’s 150,000 book, which means 74,753 children’s lives have been changed by a small group of thoughtful, dedicated citizens. As Rowan said “everybody can make a difference”.  There is also power in a book as “books in the home are the biggest indicator of academic success” according to research by Book Harvest.

When I asked Rowan who her inspirations are in life she talked about how her parents have guided her to the person she is today. Rowan sees inspiration in so many people that surround her. 

What’s next for the Madison Reading Project? Right now they are looking for new space as they continue to grow. So many people have stepped up to help by donating books, authors sending free copies of their books, people purchasing books off their Amazon Smile wishlist, and individuals from all around the world sending books for children to the Madison Reading Project. They also give teachers books for their classrooms and even during the pandemic they delivered books to homes. While they currently serve the greater Dane county in Wisconsin who knows where else they will grow to.

“A word can change a mind, a sentence can change a life and a book can change the world.” Tim Kane, A Writing on the Wall

The Madison Reading Project is activating in children the joy of reading and having their own book. One each child can read over and over again. As Rowan shared if there is something that you feel passionate about doing just begin to do it. Her quest to get reading material for her son led to this incredible, quality non-profit who continues to deliver high quality literacy learning for so many children. 

One person, one quest and many lives changed. That is what Rowan Childs did. Thank you Rowan and the amazing team at the Madison Reading Project for being Kindness Champions in the lives of so many children.

For more information on the amazing Madison Reading Project here is the contact information:


Twitter: @MSNReadingProj

Instagram: madisonreadingproject

Facebook: @MadisonReadingProject

LinkedIn: Madison Reading Project