Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2016 – Changing the World One Book At a Time

Name: Maria Keller
From: Long Lake, MN
Grade: 10
School: Orono High School
Votes: 11007

the World a Better Place, One Book At a Time

By Maria Keller

Imagine a world without books. Imagine going to sleep at night as a child without having had a bedtime story read to you. Imagine attending school with other children whose homes are filled with books and who do considerably better than you academically, as a result.

At the young age of 8 years, I learned about the literacy issues facing our communities. As an avid reader, I became aware that many children throughout the U.S. and beyond have never owned a book. They have never had a bedtime story read to them nor stepped foot in a public library. I understand that a home that’s rich in books is a home that’s rich in possibilities.

As founder of Read Indeed, I have spent the last 8 years using my organizational skills, love of reading, creativity, and tenacity, to create and organize a successful nonprofit serving the impoverished youth of our nation. To date I have collected and distributed 1.9 million books to kids in need. Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of support from hundreds of
volunteers–both young and old–Read Indeed has impacted the lives of approximately 800,000 youth to date.

By engaging thousands of individuals, I have used my creative spirit to procure nearly 2 million books for at-risk children. I have engaged corporations, churches, and community groups to host book drives. I have distributed these books to schools, hospitals, and nonprofits serving underprivileged children and teens throughout the world.

In addition to hosting and orchestrating hundreds of book drives, and procuring books from individual donors, I’ve also spent time writing grant proposals and establishing corporate sponsors that have helped Read Indeed grow significantly and reach so many more children. In addition, I have garnered more than $80,000 in individual donations to help purchase brand new books for these children.

With the help of individuals, community groups, and organizations, Read Indeed is making an impact: one that is not only providing the basic reading essentials to children who have none, but I am also showing these young recipients that you are never too young (or old) to make a difference.

I think about when I personally hand a book to a child in need, such as at an inner city school, the delight in their eyes is palpable. I have heard from thousands of children, recipients of the books that I’ve shipped to them, that these are some of the first books they have ever owned. I have received hundreds of letters and emails from other kids who are
eager to do what they can to help my efforts..

I strive to have a profound impact on the lives of the children who have no books in their homes. I hope to introduce thousands of children to Albus Dumbledore, Mary Poppins, Tom Sawyer, the White Witch, and Madeline. I look forward to having one of the books I’ve distributed to a child, resting on their bedside table, bookmarked for another day.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".