Q&A with Taylor Peterson

September 25, 2013 

Taylor Peterson

City of Residence: Kathleen

Occupation: Student, founder Reading on My Mind

QUESTION: What is Reading on My Mind?

ANSWER: It’s a nonprofit organization I formed in 2009 to provide books free to people who don’t have access to books.

QUESTION: How do you distribute them?

ANSWER: We have a library in Perry Volunteer Outreach’s Loaves and Fishes building on Carroll Street and give them out there Mondays and Thursday from 10 to noon. We also regularly go to places like soup kitchens, children’s hospitals, low-income childcare centers and other spots to give books away, no strings attached. We work with groups like Hearts to Heroes to send books in care packages to military members oversees. It’s a matter of making books accessible.

QUESTION: How did it start? And how old were you?

ANSWER: I’m a senior (at Houston County High School) now so I was 13 when it started. My church, Mt. Calvary Lutheran, does the annual Helping Hands Christmas dinner, which I knew about but never contributed to. I had the idea to give books to kids and asked our congregation to donate gently used children’s books. I ended up with close to 500. People were really happy to get books for their kids at the dinner and kept asking if they could take more than one. I realized there was a need so we just took it to another level and kept it going beyond Christmas.

QUESTION: Odds are you’re a big reader yourself.

ANSWER: I am. I still go back and look at some of the early childhood books I read that helped me love to read, and I thought, wow, if I can help plant that seed in kids that would be really cool. Reading at an earlier age is important.

QUESTION: You started with 500. How many books have been given away since?

ANSWER: 38,000. We count and stamp every book.

QUESTION: These are still all donated children’s books?

ANSWER: Yes, they’re donated still, but it’s not just for children anymore. But I do love giving books to kids. I regularly go to Cherished Children day care in Warner Robins and give out books, plus I read to kids. It’s one of my favorite things to walk in a room and have the kids run up for books and ask for stories. I’m a human Lay-Z-Boy with kids piling on as we read. Their excitement helps keep me motivated.

QUESTION: Sounds rewarding.

ANSWER: We’ve had mothers tell us their kids wouldn’t have books in their rooms without Reading on My Mind. There was another lady we ran into who had been wanting a large print Bible, so we found her one. There are a lot of stories.

QUESTION: You say “we” a lot, who else is involved?

ANSWER: My mom, Lorie, does a lot. Since I’m still in school there are times I can’t do things. We work a lot with other groups, and we have three to five volunteers that help in various ways. Of course we depend on people who donate books and on donations to pay the library rent. Monetary donations rock!

QUESTION: Since you seek book donations, ever have conflicts with Friends of the Library or similar groups?

ANSWER: No, we were actually volunteers with Friends of the Library before this started and still are. They taught us most of what we know as far as organization and that sort of thing.

QUESTION: What’s ahead for Reading on My Mind after you graduate high school?

ANSWER: We’ll definitely keep it going. We don’t have money to rent places and expand to other locations, but it would be great to see rooms opened and books given away at existing charity food pantries across the state.

QUESTION: What’s the best way to contact you?

ANSWER: We’re on Facebook and have a website at readingonmymindinc.com with information and pictures and videos. Our email is readingonmymind@gmail.com.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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