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Bringing Books to Children in Need, Courtesy of Danay Ferguson’s Reading Heart

Jan 25, 2017 11:00AM ● By Kendra Kaiserman

From the Heart

February 2017
By Kendra Kaiserman
Photos courtesy of Reading Heart

Ten-year-old Danay Ferguson is on a mission to give every child a free book to have as his or her own.

Danay founded Reading Heart at age seven, and the company got its fictitious name when she was eight. She originally wanted to “open up a bookstore and then it changed to a nonprofit when I learned that every kid didn’t have a book,” Danay says. “I wanted to help kids in under-reached areas and in hospitals.”

Another reason she started Reading Heart is because “she found out that Fresno is the seventh most illiterate city in the country and it disturbed her,” says Danay’s father, Dwayne Ferguson.

Reading Heart has a core team of 48 people, with eight of them making up the youth board, who make the major decisions. “They take care of all their meetings on their own,” Dwayne says. “They actually do the negotiating with everyone on their own,” such as having their meetings in the play place at McDonald’s. Dwayne says Reading Heart is “run no differently than other nonprofits, we just have fewer people involved.”

A recent project is the mobile library, which will be a trailer hooked up to a truck. “We’re going to be putting a whole bunch of bookshelves in it where kids can pick out a book,” Danay says. There will be bookshelves on the outside of the trailer, as well.

Reading Heart also has a van that “can hold around 5,000 books and we’re going to be driving the van round to under-reached areas. When we park the van, the kids can come in and pick out their own book, too,” says Danay.

Last year, Danay went on her Wild About Reading Tour where she visited “135 schools and talked about the power of reading in front of 100,000 kids,” Dwayne says. She challenged each child to read 10 books, and if they did, they got into a baseball game for free. When they went to the game, each child received a free book.

“My favorite part about Reading Heart is breaking the world record for books donated in 24 hours. We collected 280,110 books,” Danay says.

There are a few ways people can get involved with Reading Heart. New or used books can be dropped off at one of six locations: four in Fresno, two in Clovis and one in Selma. Financial donations goes toward buying more books and supplies. “She has a deal with Scholastic where for every $5 she raises, they give her four books,” says Dwayne. 

People can also join the team. Reading Heart needs people who want to help share the love of books. “Every little bit helps us,” Dwayne says.

“On the logistics side of things, from the parent’s perspective, we need fork lifts, box trucks – having half a million books is a little more than we expected,” he says. 

Along with running Reading Heart, Danay does what most fifth graders do. “In my spare time, I do school work and I play with my friends,” she says. “During soccer season, I play soccer and practice the piano.” She’s been playing both since she was 5.

Danay’s parents have an agreement with Danay that schoolwork comes first and that she has to maintain straight A’s or Reading Heart is put on hold.

To sum up Reading Heart in one quote, “If we don’t give kids books, we are taking away their power to learn.”

Reading Heart • 7081 N. Marks Ave. #104, Fresno • (415) 881-READ (7323)

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