Kid readers

Mesa-based Kids Need to Read uses members and a brightly wrapped van to deliver its message. (Special to the Tribune)

Keep an eye for the “Page Coach” traversing Mesa streets during the months of August and September.

Mesa-based Kids Need to Read – a national organization – is celebrating 15 years of literacy for children in communities everywhere. 

The “Page Coach,” a takeoff on the old-west stagecoach, is a cargo van outfitted with a flashy vinyl wrap. 

“Starting from a small group project in 2007 and growing into a national nonprofit literacy organization that serves over 100,000 children, Kids Need to Read has only had one goal,” said Executive Director Jessica Payne.

“Helping children discover the joy of reading and the power of a literate mind by providing inspiring books and literacy programs to underfunded schools, libraries, and community agencies across the United States, especially those serving disadvantaged children.”

That amounts to about a million dollars’ worth of mostly author-donated books getting into the hands of schools, at-risk kids and teachers annually. And it’s done 3,000 books at a time by the “Page Coach.” 

“We’ve been able to bring classroom libraries to the teachers and also have book giveaways to students themselves so that they can start building their own home libraries,” Payne said.

While schools were shut down during the pandemic, Payne says, Kids Need to Read went into overdrive.

The need didn’t subside, but children were now doing a lot of it self-directed and she saw it as her charge to keeps those books in the hands of people who would use them. 

”The pandemic actually helped to encourage growth and flexibility,” Payne said. “We did a lot of deliveries when we were really shut down. 

“Teachers and schools in general have just been wonderful about finding new and different ways to get books to kids. Even when they couldn’t actually, physically, have them in the classroom.” 

Of the group’s $1.38 million budget that comprises grants and donations from authors and others, 95% fund the program’s three main initiatives: “Grow Your library,” “From Our Shelves to Yours,” and “The Page Coach.”

“We’d do these things I called Page Coach Marathons, where I would just stop at several schools, fill up our Page Coach, which can hold about 3,000 books, and stop at several schools during the day and drop the books off,” she said. 

Kids Need to Read’s goal is to empower and embolden every child through a culture of reading. 

For many of the children it serves, the program represents a crucial link

to a strong literacy education, and its programs help build and nurture support systems for the development of literate minds. 

“By immersing children in an integrated world of literary experiences that teaches them, firsthand, the impact of reading on every aspect of life, imagination is ignited and confidence is built for a prosperous future, regardless of race, economic status, or personal capabilities,” said Payne, who taught high school for 15 years.

“We keep growing. We keep getting more books to make literacy equitable.”

How you can get involved

When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 20.

Where: EOS Fitness, 1840 E. Warner Road, Tempe.

What: Sample event of kid-friendly classes to help bring awareness book donations for Kids Need to Read. Open to the public 12 and older. The classes will be 15 minutes long and will be on a one-hour rotation. Though free, people are asked to donate a book.

Kids Need to Read and EOS Fitness will be putting together three raffles of family books and swag. The cost to enter the raffle is one book. The raffle will only be held during the event but they do not need to be present to win.


When: 2-4 p.m. Sept. 3

Where:  Mesa Public Library, 64 E. 1st St., Mesa.

What: Come help build reading buddies and reading buddy kits for Kids Need to Read. Volunteers from age 12 and up are needed. All sewing skill levels welcome. Space is limited, so reserve a spot by emailing

Cost: Free. Donations of Poly-fil and washable fabric are welcomed but not required.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.