At 13, Megan Mettler is the youngest participant in Shine (thus far), but she’s already made thousands of children happy. While volunteering at a local soup kitchen in her Southern California community, she realized that many of the kids didn’t have anything to read. She began bringing them books and Kids READ! was born.
Now Megan collects children’s books and distributes them to schools, literacy programs and community organizations in need around the country. She and her family even brought a huge care package to the kids of Joplin, Missouri, after storms devastated the area. In a recent interview, she said, “We had a bunch of books in the garage at that point and thought what better place to bring them than Joplin. We talked to people there and they said they already needed books before the tornado and now they just needed them so much more.”
Megan’s story shows that you don’t necessarily have to think big to SHINE. She saw a need in her community and realized that she could do something about it by simply putting a book into a child’s hands. Here is more with Megan:
How and when did you get started collecting books for children?
I started my Kids READ! project collecting books for children when I was 12 years old and in the 7th grade. I wanted to donate 13,000 books by my Bat Mitzvah, my 13th birthday. I not only met my goal, but surpassed it.
What made you decide to focus on collecting books for children specifically?
For years I have worked at a soup kitchen feeding homeless people. I was really touched by the kids I met there since they were so much like me, but had so little. They inspired me to want to make kid’s lives better. Since I always have a good book with me, I felt that they should have the same thing.
Where do you distribute the books? How do you find out which locations need books?
I have donated books to schools, literacy programs and our local children’s hospital and Ronald McDonald House. I donated 3,000 books to the Joplin, Missouri School District after the tornado destroyed homes and schools. I get requests for donations from classroom teachers and librarians in Orange County. I also reach out to schools and literacy programs if I hear that they might want or need books.
I read that you’ve distributed 17,000 books so far! How did you spread the word to get donations? Then how did you coordinate delivering the books?
My book donations are now over 21,000! I started with book drives at my school, temple and my old school. When word of my project spread, I started getting donations throughout Orange County, California. When my Bat Mitzvah was approaching, I requested that my friends and family donate books rather than buying me gifts. My parents have been great about driving around picking up books and bringing them to the donation locations.
Do you have a story that you’d like to share about your experience?
My favorite delivery of books was to Pio Pico Elementary School in Santa Ana. This is a Title I school where all of the kids get free breakfast and lunch because their parents don’t have a lot of money. I delivered the books after school and there must have been 100 kids who put on an amazing assembly thanking me for the books. The kids made me thank-you cards with adorable pictures and the sweetest notes inside. On top of that they sang me their school song in English and Spanish. I know that these kids will treasure the books I donated and I treasure the kindness that they showed me.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m now 13 years old and I am in the 8th grade. I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up, but I want to continue giving to other people. I have a few favorite books. When I was little I loved the Clifford and Dr. Suess books. As I got older it was the Harry Potter series, and now I really like reading fun and exciting fiction.
Do you have a website where people can find out more about Kids READ?
P.S. If you’d like to donate books to Kids READ!, check out Megan’s wish list on Amazon.
Coming up next on SHINE: A program near and dear to my heart, The Healing Species of Texas uses rescue dogs to show kids that they already have the power within themselves to be the best they can be.