Helping Children Cultivate a Lifelong Love of Books
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United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Helping Children Cultivate a Lifelong Love of Books

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(Above left) Margy Stratton, third from right, with bestselling children's author Jason Reynolds, center. (Above right) Margy Stratton reading with her daughter.

March 14, 2022

Margy Stratton, a longtime United Way supporter who started the Emerging Readers program, has loved books all her life.  

“From book fairs and author visits at school to weekly bookstore trips with my dad and library trips with my mom, I am where I am today because I was surrounded by books,” said Margy. 

Inspired to share her love of books with local children, Margy partnered with United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County in 2012 to create Emerging Readers, a program that invites volunteers to purchase age-appropriate books for youth participants in a United Way-funded nonprofit program. 

The idea started when Margy was on vacation with her family in Vermont. “We went to a local bookstore, and they had a giving tree for books,” recalled Margy. “Children in need put their names and favorite book genres on a tag, and volunteers could pick a name and purchase books for that child. I thought ‘we need to do something like this in Milwaukee!’”  

Her next step? Reaching out to United Way. “When I think of doing good work in the community, I think of United Way first,” said Margy. “They have connections to local nonprofits and a great donor network of Emerging Leaders who are looking for a signature project – it was a perfect fit.” 

Since the program began, Emerging Readers has provided 16,000+ books to 1,400+ youth in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. Since 2020, the program has been virtual, with volunteers providing monetary donations to support the purchase of books. This year, all books bought for Emerging Readers will come from Martha Merrell’s Books & Toys in Waukesha. Learn how you can get involved this year. 

As founder and executive producer of Milwaukee Reads, Margy hosts author events to give local children the same transformative opportunities she had – meeting the real authors behind books they love.  

“I still have the signed books from when I met real-life authors in fourth grade,” said Margy. “A love of reading really does emerge from those touchpoints. 

“Reading makes such a huge difference in a child’s life,” continued Margy. “A book can be a toy, a comfort item, and a way to escape, learn, and become more confident. It’s so important that children have books in their home libraries.” 

United Way’s Emerging Readers program provides a simple opportunity for busy individuals or families to make an impact in the life of local children by sharing the joy of reading and opening worlds of possibilities. Learn more. 

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