Rowan Childs: Getting books—and the opportunities they bring—into kids’ hands

By Hywania Thompson | Photographed by Hillary Schave on location at Hilton Madison Monona Terrace

Books have always been part of Rowan Childs’ world. Growing up, books were treasures that provided consistency as her family moved frequently due to her dad’s job. Now, Childs is making sure youth throughout Dane County have access to their own treasures.

Childs is founder and executive director of the Madison Reading Project, a nonprofit providing books to kids and community organizations free of charge. They also offer story times, author visits and other literacy- based events.

Childs is leading the organization while working a full-time job and cherishing time with her husband and two kids. She is motivated by the kids and the importance of reading and literacy. “We want to encourage and inspire kids to read,” says Childs. “There are so many opportunities in books.”

Last year, the organization acquired the Big Red Reading Bus, which they take around the community, spreading joy through the power of books. That was a game changer for the Project. “We arrive and people know exactly who we are,” Childs says.

Last October, Madison Reading Project gave away its 100,000th book.

Childs is always looking for opportunities to engage the community, says Corinda Rainey-Moore, who serves on the organization’s board of directors. “She knows that it will take a village to change these disparities, so we need all hands on deck,” says Rainey-Moore, referring to lower literacy rates among students of color.

This year, Childs plans to spend more time pursuing personal development for herself and her team as Madison Reading Project continues to further literacy work in the community. Childs’ goal is to give out 60,000 books—20,000 more than their 2019 goal, which they surpassed last November.

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