reading ready pittsburgh

Reading Ready Pittsburgh: this local nonprofit offers free books for kids, story times and more

All photos courtesy of Reading Ready Pittsburgh.

According to the infinite wisdom of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

To support families with the resources to appreciate reading, Reading Ready Pittsburgh gets books into the homes throughout the city and Mon Valley. This Homestead-based nonprofit offers many programs for children, parents and caregivers.

Though all ages are welcome, “most of our programming is for ages 8 and under,” said Mary Denison, executive director of Reading Ready and a school psychologist.

reading ready pittsburgh
Kids and grownups can read together when they visit “B is For Books.”


Here are some offerings from Reading Ready Pittsburgh to check out now:

  • B is for Books is Reading Ready’s free bookstore located at its facility on 222 East 8th Avenue. Children from birth to young adult are permitted three books per visit. Along with getting books, caregivers can relax with their little ones in a reading nook and ask staff about other early literacy programs. Check here for hours.
  • Families can also visit 14 “little libraries” full of gently used books stocked by the Reading Ready staff. They are located throughout the Mon Valley (see a map HERE for exact locations in McKeesport, Clairton, Duquesne, Braddock, Homestead and more). The free book store and little libraries resources have provided 30,000 books to children.
  • Visit B is for Books for Emily the Librarian Public Story Time: Drop by at 11:30 a.m. on July 11. Also, check the website calendar for future story times.
  • Don’t miss Dino Day at B is for Books from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 20. Carnegie Natural History Museum staff will visit with genuine fossils, and there will be dino-themed stories, crafts and games. Every child will receive a free book. For ages elementary school and younger.
  • Raising a Reader, is Reading Ready’s free book-lending program for ages birth to 5, which runs throughout the school year. It encourages reading by distributing books to Early Head Start classrooms, private child care centers, home visitors and other family care connections. Reading Ready also helps these organizations learn to use books for instruction, build a classroom library, help get parents engaged in books and more. More than 1,000 weekly book bags have been distributed so far. In the summer, those enrolled can participate in Read With Me!, which provides each child one book per week for eight weeks. A pilot program, starting in September, will extend the program to kindergarten and first grade classrooms in Clairton City School District. Enroll here.
  • Through a partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a book is mailed to a child every month until the child turns 5. There is no fee and no required income for eligibility. It’s available to all residents in the City of Pittsburgh and to many in the Mon Valley, Wilkinsburg and Penn Hills. Check here to see if your zip code is included, and if not, to sign up for an alert for when your zip code is added.
  • Parents can receive three text messages each week for free through a program called Parent Powered, for age-specific advice on just about anything, including reading, numbers, gross motor skills, activities and more. Sign up here.


Parents can also check their website calendar for Reading Ready’s participation in area community days.

And to further promote early literacy, Reading Ready is a presence at events held by Beverly’s Babies, family centers and other organizations in the Mon Valley. The nonprofit also gets books into the hands of children through pediatricians’ offices and community health centers, and they’ve started a public awareness campaign by creating posters of local families reading together that are distributed to schools, libraries, salons and doctors’ offices.

They’ve even provided local diaper banks with stickers offering reading tips, says Mark Sepe, outreach coordinator: “We are there every step of the way to help our partners give the best programming as possible.”


Reading literally helps children’s brains to grow stronger, Denison says. And here are more reasons to sit down with your child and a good book:

  • Reading builds vocabulary. Pointing at labels and pictures in baby board books and then slowly progressing to more complicated books encourages question-and-answer discussion between a reader and child. Little by little, kids learn more and more words. They can even learn words like “rumpus” from Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” when they are read to!
  • Books can help kids express feelings. Reading about a character who has a tantrum helps children understand that other people have the same feelings and that it’s okay, and there are other ways to handle those feelings, explained Denison. She recommends “Pete the Cat” books by Kimberly and James Dean and Eric Litwin.
  • Reading strengthens a child’s ability to concentrate. Starting with shorter books and naturally expanding to longer stories as the child grows prepares them to sit on that classroom rug when teacher is reading or giving lessons in school, Denison said.
  • Reading enhances a child’s imagination and creativity. It’s a great way to create a life-long love of learning.
  • Reading increases positive relations between parent and child. “When you sit with your child, turn off your phone and focus on your child and read a whole book with them, it’s a huge message. It says, ‘you are important to me,’” Denison says.