This Hidden Hero has a ‘passion for children and youth literacy’ and offers them free books

Lorie Peterson had been visiting day care centers and Head Start programs in the Middle Georgia area for about six months when a mother came up to her.

The mother said there are books in her child’s room now because of Peterson’s efforts, and it’s one of Peterson’s most memorable moments since starting her nonprofit Reading on My Mind.

Peterson said she was so pleased by the mother’s comments because she has memories of reading books with her mother on their porch.

“My association with books is wrapped around love in the comfort of sitting on my mother’s lap,” she said. “We want to provide those opportunities where kids have these books in their rooms that they have the opportunity to have these memories associated with the book.”

Peterson has been selected as the October Hidden Hero for Positively 478 and The Telegraph for her efforts to promote literacy and provide books to people and children in need.

She said one of the main ways she does that is by meeting people where they are.

The main library for Reading on My Mind is at Bonaire United Methodist Church, and it is open from 1-3 p.m. on the second and fourth Fridays of the month, which is the same time the food and clothing pantries are open.

“We want to be where the need is so when people are coming to get food or clothes they can also come in and get free books,” she said.

Reading on My Mind has several shelves at different pantries and centers across the Middle Georgia area, and also helped start a library at the Thomas Jackson Juvenile Justice Center in Macon, Peterson said.

Amy Bell, an assistant public defender in the Macon Judicial Circuit, said Peterson had to downsize when she moved from the Loaves and Fishes pantry in Perry to Bonaire.

Bell said Peterson sold two bookcases to them and gave them several books to start their library in the Juvenile Justice Center, which is one of the reasons Bell nominated Peterson as a Hidden Hero.

“She has a passion for children and youth literacy in Central Georgia,” she said. “We could not have gotten started without her help as quickly as we did.”

Bell said she met Peterson through another assistant public defender, Cheryl Milton. Milton said she thinks children being able to read and have their own book to read improves their self-confidence.

“She is a wonderful person. She’s very sincere. She really cares about kids and about literacy, and literacy is so important,” Milton said. “She’s doing her best to make sure kids get a good start.”

Peterson said Reading on My Mind started when her daughter, Taylor, wanted to give something at their annual church Christmas drive that was more for pleasure than necessity, and she came up with the idea to give out books.

Although she is a big supporter of the public library system and a member of Friends of the Library, Peterson said her and her daughter noticed there weren’t a lot of opportunities for children to get free books. They wanted to make a change.

“We love going to places or connecting with people and giving them books,” she said. “Our books are always free and people get to keep them.”

Peterson said she receives books from donations, and for the last five years, Reading on My Mind has been the recipient of the annual book and toy drive at Books-A-Million.

She has a storage unit to keep books in stock when a shelf needs to be filled, and money for that comes from financial support when she does literacy events. She has a lot of support from churches and groups in the community as well.

Peterson said she has a network of organizations where she has bookshelves filled with books for people to have.

“This is a program that is connected with so many people that help me,” she said. “I’m providing the books but they’re also helping me, and they’re giving them out.”

To nominate a Hidden Hero, fill out our online form or email for more information.

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Jenna Eason is a multimedia reporter at The Telegraph and creates serviceable news around food, culture and people who make a difference in the Macon community. Jenna joined The Telegraph staff after graduating from Mercer University in May 2018 with a journalism degree.