Nine-year-old twins' love of reading sparks charity that gives books to kids

Hannah and Alex Laman can’t imagine living in a home without books.

So the nine-year-old Loveland twins were stunned last fall as their parents discussed a newspaper article that outlined school funding cuts that would affect the ability of some inner-city kids to get books.

“Our kids are avid readers and going to the library is a big part of their lives,’’ says Angela Laman. “They overhead us talking about that story and they were just dumbfounded that there are kids without access to books; that there are kids who can’t even get a ride to the library.”

So the brother-sister duo came up with an idea: Let’s collect used books and give them away to kids who don’t have them. Just like that Adopt a Book was born.

“Kids need to learn how to read because  there are words everywhere,’’ says Hannah, just a day after being named a Difference Maker at the Cincinnati Museum Center for the charity she and her brother created from that very simple idea.

Her brother adds: “We wanted every kid to have the chance to read a book."

“My goal is to give away 10 million books in the next three years,’’ Alex adds.

The Laman twins were two of five people honored last week at the fifth annual Duke Energy / Children’s Museum Difference Maker Awards. The Dragonfly Foundation and Faces without Places were also honored. More than 50 individuals, businesses and agencies were nominated by their peers and members of the community for the inspiring work they do.

Angela Laman says she and her husband, Brent, are incredibly proud of their fourth-graders, who have collected and distributed 8,783 books since the nonprofit was created less than a year ago.

“We sat on the idea for several months, thinking it would go away,’’ she says. “But they were relentless.”

The family brainstormed the idea, came up with the name, filed out the necessary paperwork to create the nonprofit and set up a Facebook account. Then they set out to collect the books, which fill their basement, spare bedroom and garage. The donations have come through friends, family, teachers and their church.

The Lamans have distributed books to ProKids, Lighthouse Youth Services and to the YWCA, which shares the books for children in shelters and juvenile programs, she says. The twins catalogue the books as well as deliver them.

“It’s all been through word of mouth really,’’ she says. “I thought we would get a few hundred books and I’ve been just amazed.”

The books have to pass the Alex and Hannah test before they get donated: Each must to be in good shape, with no missing pages or writing in them. The twins will take books targeted at any age, but they particularly like getting chapter books.

 “They don’t want to donate books that they wouldn’t want to get,” says mom, who tracks every book they receive in a simple spreadsheet. “It’s been a great learning experience for them. It’s just been wonderful.”

So what’s next for the enterprising twins?

Besides donating those 10 million books, Alex really wants Adopt a Book to have its own Web site where they can discuss the nonprofit and he’d like to eventually give away brand new “crisp” books.

“New books would be really, really nice,’’ says Alex. “I’d like to give away new books.”

Besides the glass awards the twins received, the Museum Center also presented the Laman family with a year membership. The twins are already talking about how they can have a book fair in the center’s rotunda.

Do Good:
• Like Adopt a Book on Facebook.

• Donate gently used books via Facebook or email

• Watch a video of the award ceremony.

• Read about all the 2012 Difference Makers.

By Chris Graves.
Chris Graves is assistant vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency.

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