Gratitude and a Vision for Tomorrow

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

This article of gratitude is a simple yet significant way to acknowledge and express our sincere appreciation for the support of the local organizations that partner with the Pima County Public Library.

In January 2018, the Friends of the Oro Valley Public Library funded a special project with the Pima County Public Library, to support bilingual education, cultural diversity and literacy development for children. This ongoing project led by the Library's Welcome to America team provides multilingual and English books to Make Way for Books, an early literacy nonprofit organization. Through their outreach programs for young children and families, children have the opportunity to read, develop language skills, discover a love of learning, and succeed.

When a child receives one of these books, it is a wonderful gift with a unique connection to the Library. Our hope is that families in our communities will feel welcomed at any library location, to check out books and movies, attend Storytimes, English Language classes or other programs, and to discover the many library services and resources!    

The Pima County Public Library system includes 26 libraries in Tucson, Arivaca, Green Valley, Sahuarita, South Tucson, Ajo, Oro Valley, and Catalina. Visit any library location to sign up for your free library card.

Ally Baehr, Chief Operating Officer, Make Way for Books, shared her thoughts to these questions:

Can you tell us about the work that Make Way for Books does and the programs that you offer with other agencies in the community?

Established in 1998, Make Way for Books’ mission is to give all children the chance to read and succeed. Make Way for Books works to empower economically disadvantaged young children with the emergent literacy and language skills they need to thrive in the classroom and throughout life by reaching them with meaningful early literacy experiences before they enter kindergarten.

Over the past 21 years, Make Way for Books has demonstrated high impact in empowering parents, supporting educators, and increasing young children’s emergent literacy and language skills and overall kindergarten readiness. Make Way for Books creates positive and sustainable change for children and families throughout southern Arizona through the principles of innovation; collaboration and cultivating diverse partnerships; a commitment to high-quality, measurable impact and constant improvement; and the tireless passion for achieving our mission so more children will have the chance to read and succeed.

Last year more than 300 volunteers contributed their time to help us achieve our mission. Each year, Make Way for Books serves more than 30,000 young children and families as well as more than 700 educators.

What is your most successful program and why?

I do not think I could ever pick a “most successful program” because I think they are all successful! The fact that we are reaching so many children by influencing and educating all the adults in their lives, whether that is their teacher, parent, or caregiver, means that not only today’s children, but also babies being born every day will all have a better chance at success in school and life!

How did you become involved with this organization?

I first came to know about Make Way for Books through a project we were both involved with to pilot test a Star Rating System for childcare centers and preschools. I then became a Storytime Volunteer and then we were partner organizations when I worked at United Way. I have been working here for almost 6 years now, first as the Director of Community Engagement and now as the Chief Operating Officer. We have grown from about 8 employees in 2014 to over 30 now!

What are some of the goals you would like to see the organization accomplish in the next three to five years? 

In the next three to five years, we would like to expand our programming to reach more children, families, and educators. We would like our Early Literacy Make Way for Books app downloaded and used around the world. We would like more communities across Arizona to have Make Way for Books programming.

Get the Make Way for Books App for fun learning activities and discover the best e-books (available in English & Spanish) for infants, toddlers and preschoolers!

How have the books provided by the Pima County Public Library helped to promote early literacy with young children and families?

Thanks to our amazing partnership with the Pima County Public Library, we receive books in about a dozen different languages and we are able to give these books to families whose home language is something other than English. We encourage families to read to their children in the same language they say, “I love you.” Parents are always so delighted to see a book in their home language, often bringing tears to their eyes. We know now that speaking to your child in more than one language is incredibly beneficial and these students actually do better when they get to school! These books allow us to provide books to refugee and immigrant families and we are so grateful!

How can someone get more involved with Make Way for Books?

If someone is interested in getting involved with Make Way for Books, they can reach out to us through our website