Pay It Forward: Getting Books to Muscatine Children

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Not everyone hates the winter weather.

For four-year-olds at Muscatine's Wonder Years day care, a lesson in snow from "Little Bea and the Snowy Day" could help set them up for bigger things ahead.

"If we can do our jobs here to prepare them, because they are little sponges at this age, get as many books in their hands, then the kindergarten teachers will appreciate it later," says Michele Rogers, the director of Wonder Years. 

But books come at a price.

Not for these kids, though, thanks to one Muscatine woman.

"Tree of Knowledge" is a small-time operation making a big impact.  Three volunteers, led by Marlene Graves, gather donations to buy books that are given free to day care and elementary students.

"I cannot imagine a household without books for children.  That was never in my realm," says Graves.

But it is in the realm for other families.

For 15 years, Marlene has spearheaded this effort.  She's reminded why she does it when she thinks of the woman who said her family had to choose between bread on the table or books on the shelf, or of the little boy who received a book but wanted to return it to Marlene.

"And I said 'No, it's yours.'  He never had a book.  I just couldn't relate to that.  My kids, my grandkids, we all had books forever," she said

These volunteers know, the work they do now pays dividends down the road.

"Giving them a book, to take home with them to read, is a great way to get their parents involved in reading with them and then interested in books," says volunteer  Susan Gill, who nominated Marlene for the $300 Ascentra Credit Union "Pay It Forward" award.

Whether those books are read to them or if the children find their own spot to get lost in the world of reading.

"I want them to have that imagination," says Marlene.

"I want them to see the colors.  I want them to feel the experience of whatever that character is.  It doesn't matter if it's a bee or a bear or whatever.  They're learning.  They're learning," she says.

If you know someone who helps their community, why not nominate them in the Ascentra Credit Union/News 8 "Pay It Forward" program.  You can use the nominating form by clicking here.