Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Kids! Interview with Maria Keller

By Victoria Feng, Assistant Editor, Amazing Kids Spotlight Interviewer, and AKOM Writer

 

Maria Keller is the founder of Read Indeed, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes books to those in need. So far, Maria has collected over 2 million books for Read Indeed and impacted thousands of children internationally. She has been featured on the Ellen Show and national networks such as CNN.

Amazing Kids (AK): What inspired you to start Read Indeed?

Maria Keller (MK): I always loved to read when I was young but primarily as a form of entertainment. Books allowed me to travel places I would never go or could never go, and they allowed me to experience the world through the eyes of others. When I was eight years old, I was discussing with my mom how some kids, even in my local community, do not possess books. I couldn’t imagine lacking the experiences I treasured in my reading, from the adventures I could go on to the people I could meet, and so I decided to do a small book drive at my school. A few weeks after that book drive, I declared that I wanted to collect and distribute one million books to kids in need. Eventually, books became intrinsically valuable to me as Read Indeed grew and I knew the vast power of books, and I love to read even more now than I ever did when I was a little girl, but for different reasons.

AK: What was the most challenging part of starting Read Indeed?

MK: The greatest aspect to having the privilege of running Read Indeed is that I am not necessarily the sole energy behind Read Indeed. Many people love books like I do and know the importance of reading, so they are eager to be a part of my mission. Over the past nine years, only rarely have I had to market Read Indeed or ask people to become involved because people were impressed by my mission and so willing to support it already. Therefore, the most difficult component of Read Indeed has not been collecting books or distributing books, but it has been the organization and guidance of Read Indeed. The community had empowered Read Indeed’s efforts, and my job is to guide those efforts in the most efficient way possible, so we can have the greatest impact.

AK: What’s your favorite book, and why do you like it?

MK: I do not think I could honestly pick a favorite book, as it changes far too often for me. However, one of my favorite books I have read recently is Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre is known for being ahead of its time, for speaking of the challenges to the individualism and freedom of women in society. Although this theme is important, it is not what resonated most with me. I suppose the recurring theme of moderation in Jane’s moral and ethical decisions was most impactful for me, as she encounters a number of people who are far more extreme in their ideologies than she is and yet she continues to reject any attempts to coerce her to give up her principles and her freedom. Another favorite book of mine is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I found that The Book Thief was such an impressive work that I needed only to read it once. The emotional depth of The Book Thief is the reason I loved it. I also read Lord of the Rings over the summer, and although it was dense, I definitely found it to be worth the effort.

AK: How were you able to collect millions of books in a few years?

MK: As I mentioned, much of the reason why I have been able to collect and distribute over 2.4 million books to kids in need has been through the community and the energy of the community. Read Indeed is essentially a middle man; we could not exist without the individuals and groups who donate books, and we could not exist without the numerous teachers and organizations willing to ensure the books reach the hands of kids in need.

AK: Where do the books donated go to?

MK: The books given to Read Indeed are always distributed to kids in need. But Read Indeed does not distribute the books straight to the kids. Read Indeed gives books to numerous other individuals and organizations that gift the books to the kids in our name. Some of the most common recipients of our books are teachers, and between 30 and 60 teachers receive books from Read Indeed every month. I have heard a lot of great stories from teachers. A few months ago, a teacher told me about one of her students, who was thrilled to have received a book because he had never had a book of his own before. After the boy got home from school, his father sent the teacher an email, entirely in Spanish, telling her how excited his family was that his son had received books and that he was building his son his own bookshelf. These are the kinds of stories I hear all the time, and they are what I think about whenever I feel overwhelmed by the pressures of Read Indeed and I need inspiration.

AK: How can kids help collect and distribute books for Read Indeed?

MK: We always have a need for books, particularly during the winter when book donations start to slow down. Read Indeed has a website, www.readindeed.org. I can be contacted through maria@readindeed.org, and I can help you set up a book drive and send you important information about Read Indeed.

AK: When you’re not working on your project, are there any hobbies/interests you enjoy participating in?

MK: Of course, in my free time, I love to read, and I also collect antique books. I like to go on runs with my dad, and I like to play hide-and-go-seek with my golden retriever. I also enjoy baking, hanging out with friends, and playing board games.

AK: What are your goals for the future?

MK: I plan on attending a university after I graduate from high school (I am currently a senior). I want to study biology, and my top choices for schools include Notre Dame, Yale, and Princeton. In terms of my goals for Read Indeed, I plan on establishing a chapter of Read Indeed at whichever university I end up attending, and I hope to establish chapters of Read Indeed in other colleges around the country as well.

AK: What advice would you give to our readers about their dreams and making a difference?

MK: I would definitely tell anyone who is interested in making a difference to determine what you are interested in and why, and then be willing to do whatever you can to make a difference in your community. The key to becoming a change-maker is a strong work ethic and an earnest commitment to your particular interest. Working on strengthening these qualities is important in making a real, sustainable impact. Furthermore, you cannot underestimate the impact of small actions, like deciding to help your mom do the dishes one day or spending a couple of hours volunteering at a local food shelf.

Leave a Reply

Complete the problem to Comment: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.