Catching Joy, Inc. Celebrating and Sharing the Joy of Reading

A Peacemaking Project by Maxwell S.

What is the injustice we are solving?

Our project this year is addressing literacy and book ownership in households where reading is not a priority and underprivileged schools and communities

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of civic engagement
we will address literacy and book ownership in households and bookownership in underpriviledged communities
by collecting books and making bookmarks for kids in need; raising awareness and support by organizing fun event celebrating and sharing the joy of reading, and leading open discussions about issues and what we can do to help others

Our Project Plan:


  • We aim to collect 100+ new and "like new" books for kids and adults in need. We aim to lead kids, teens, and families making 100+ bookmarks to go along with the books. We aim to raise awareness on this issue of literacy and how youth can help.
  • We aim to lead kids, teens, and families making 100+ bookmarks to go along with the books.
  • We aim to raise awareness on this issue of literacy and how youth can help.

We will increase my / our compassion by...

We will increase our compassion by researching the problem and talking to teachers and librarians that work in underprivileged schools, people that work in shelter homes and non-profit leaders in the field and most importantly parents and kids in need. We want to understand what they need in terms of books and support, and try to see how it feels to be in their shoes. We want to help give them books, but also make sure we are protecting their dignity.

How will you show courage?

We show courage because by really looking at the problem and taking action. Addressing this social injustice can make us feel uncomfortable, but we know we have to help. We show courage by planning an event that requires planning, organizing, leading, and giving our creativity and care. We put ourselves out there as change makers. We show courage by working directly with kids, teens, and families who need our support.

How will you collaborate with others?

We will collaborate with teachers, librarians, schools, and other non-profit organizations that address literacy for people in need. We will collaborate with authors, illustrators and bookstores to help put together an event that celebrates books and sharing with others. We will collaborate with kids, teens, and families because we need everyone's help to solve the problem. We will collaborate with local businesses and media to get support on raising awareness, support, and participation in our local community.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

We will know we are moving in the right direction as we check off things in our "to do" list in terms of preparing for the event. We will count the books and bookmarks we collect. Moreso, we will count how many people we impact both in terms of who we help and we recruit to join our cause. We will know we are moving in the right direction when we ourselves really use our compassion, courage, and collaboration to help bring about empathy and action in others.

Key Steps

  • Talk to people to really understand the problem.
  • Form a core team to help organize the book event/drive.
  • Put out collection boxes in partnering organizations.
  • Set up an event at a library or bookstore where we can celebrate books and share with others. Invite kids, teens, and families to attend. Invite authors and illustrators to help draw in more people.
  • At the event, read stories about reading, sharing, and acts of kindness. Lead open discussion sharing about the social injustice and how youth can help. Lead kids using their creativity and care to make bookmarks to go along with the books. Enjoy snacks.
  • Deliver the books and bookmarks to a school/community in need.
  • Follow up with thank you letters.
  • Write reflection.


How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

My Catching Joy project was addressing civic engagement and specifically focused on literacy and book ownership for kids and adults in need. I learned more about the importance of reading and having access to books. I also learned about the challenges that people in underserved schools and communities have related to this issue. The more I learned the more empathy I felt because I believe that everybody deserves to learn to read and enjoy books. If we can share the gift of reading with everyone, it will help solve many problems. Without literacy and books, it is hard for anyone to succeed.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

I helped raise awareness and support for literacy and book ownership for kids in need. Through a couple story times with guest authors and sharing books, kids and families enjoyed the love of books. I collected new and "like new" books and led kids and families making bookmarks to go along with the donations. We collected over 100 books and distributed them to schools, shelter homes, and nursing homes. We also filled Little Free Libraries in various towns. We were able to share books with others, but moreso, mobilize youth to get involved. In addition, Catching Joy led an activity table at the North Star Ramble, an event that promoted physical fitness and literacy. Each youth participant received a new book. We collected books and socks for people in need.

How many people were impacted by your project?


Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

150 participants in the North Star Ramble- each youth participant receives a book and learns about Catching Joy. Kids and families donated books and socks for people in need. 100 books, lots of bookmarks, and lots of socks collected for people in need. We distributed items to schools, shelter homes, and nursing homes. 25 kids and families attended story times where we shared books, made bookmarks, and collected books and socks for people in need.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

I read books and articles about the importance of reading and how they leads to academic success. I also talked to students, parents, teachers, librarians, authors/illustrators, booksellers, and non-profit and community leaders about the social injustice and the impact it has on those affected and our community. I have an elderly friend who spent time in a rehab/nursing home. When I visited her, I saw that many of the residents were bored and lonely. I talked to the social worker and some of the people that work there,and donated books to their library.

What did your team learn?

I learned that literacy is the #1 factor related to academic success. Sadly, there is a large group of people- kids and adults-who cannot read at a proficient level. This is a growing problem in underserved schools and communities and people with disabilities. Students that struggle with reading, suffer not only academically but also socially. They may become bullies and later drop out of school. Many kids do not have someone who reads to them and they do not have books in their home. They may not have a ride to go to the local library and nobody to support and encourage them to go there. We can help by giving books to schools and charities. I also learned that elderly people can benefit from reading books. It can help keep their mind keen and bring enjoyment to their sometimes long and lonely days.

What challenges did your team overcome?

In this project, we had to get out of our comfort zone and address the fact that unlike us, many people cannot read and do not have access to books. We faced the issue instead of ignoring it, and we took action. We had to put in time, energy, creativity, and care to organize and participate/lead the events. We had to reach out to people to help raise awareness and support and collect books and socks- two basic necessities- for people in need, and then we had to deliver the donations. The PeaceFirst grant gave us funds that allowed us to buy materials, supplies, and snacks. We were also able to purchase selected new books with themes of kindness and giving to use in our curriculum.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

We partnered with the Blue Bunny Bookstore for the story times. We offered morning story times and PJ story times at night. We also reached out to authors and illustrators to get involve. A few of them joined us for story time and read their books and also donated some books. We also partnered with The Reynolds Teaching Center for the North Star Ramble event as we shared a mission to promote literacy and physical fitness and give books in the hands of children. We also partnered with teachers/librarians/ and non-profit and community leaders to help distribute the books and socks.

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

My advice is to think about what bothers you and try to make a difference. Research the problem by reading and talking to lots of people especially the ones who are directly affected. Use your creativity and care, and use your unique talents. If you like art, make cards. If you like sports, organize a physical activity event. If you like singing, organize a concert. Start with your family, friends, school and community, but also use social media to expand your reach. Focus on quality over quantity, and make sure that everyone has a good time so that they will want to do more.

Our Updates:

Catching Joy "Blankets and Books"

Maxwell S. 2 June 2018 12:01 Catching Joy, Inc. delivered 33 blankets and books to Father Bills & MainSpring for kids and adults in need. To date, we've donated more than 2000 blankets to various charities. For more information on how to get involved with our "Big Blanket Hug," contact Max/Joy, [REDACTED]. 6/2/2018 #catchingjoy #arrows #blanketsandbooks #peacefirst #channelkindness#changetheworld


Fish S.
15 June 2018 13:59

Hi Max!

Congratulations on finishing your peacemaking project! I’m on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for your amazing work and for taking time to share about your work.

Max -- as always, your compassion and your joy shine through on this project. It sounds like you've done a lot of deep thinking - and had some conversations - about the root issues. I'm encouraged that you have some ideas for how to dig deeper on those going forward (like hosting conversations with folks in your community about this issue) and that you see the link between low literacy rates and other injustices. That's really important thinking!

And, as always, your success at bringing volunteers together is really inspiring. What's your secret to mobilizing so many people?

I'm glad that you'll continue this project moving forward - and we're here to support you when you do. How do you think you could invite folks who are affected by the injustice to help design and lead the next stage of the project with you? I think that could be an interesting way to deepen your work.

Keep it up, Max!

We hope you will stay in touch and keep us up to date as you continue your work to create change!


Fish S. Peace First Staff
6 April 2018 16:40

Hi Maxwell! Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below

Maxwell, as always, I love the thought and care you have put into this application. You're right that there is a serious disparity in access to books, and it sounds like you have a great plan to do some digging around why that is. I think the list of people you wrote down -- especially children and families -- is really great, and it's important that you speak with all of these folks as you plan the event. Let us know if we can help connect you with people or think about questions to ask.

The event plan sounds exciting too! You'll have to invite us again!

Things to consider (Opportunities to further strengthen the project)
I'd be interested to learn more about your thoughts on the link between literacy and civic engagement. I think I know what you mean, but I'd love to hear from you -- how will literacy drive civic engagement? What's the real injustice here, and what's the change you hope to see?

I think your plan is strong, and your success will be dependent on reaching your goals (ambitious, as usual!) about reaching out to lots of folks and involving them in your work. This is really important!

(PS: We have supported some other awesome young people to run book drives -- check out Em's story!

Congratulations and best of luck with your project! Let us know how we can help!

Adrian B.
28 March 2018 18:40

Hi Maxwell,

We're excited to hear more about your ideas to address this important injustice! I wanted to let you know about an opportunity -- if you are interested in getting some funding for materials that you need to carry out your project, you can apply for mini-grant of up to $250.

The deadline to submit your Project Plan and Mini-Grant Application is March 31st if you want to remain eligible to apply to attend a Peace First Accelerator.

As you craft your plan, be sure to consider the feedback we gave you on your compassionate insight, and check out our project planning tools for help turning your insight into a concrete action plan:

Then, through your dashboard you can make any changes you want to make to your "compassionate insight," record your plan in "Make a plan" and then "Apply for a mini-grant" for the materials you need.

Let us know if you have questions. We're looking forward to supporting your project!


Kelsey T.
9 March 2018 17:04

Hi Max! So excited about this year's Challenge project! I'm here to provide some feedback on your Compassionate Insight. As you'll remember, we provide insight feedback to help teams further strengthen their ideas to come up with the best possible solution, and we hope you'll consider this feedback as you work to create your Project Plan. (The Plan and mini-grant application are due March 31st!)

I think your insight is strong overall and and I love your plan to use your beautiful and joyful way of running events and projects to grow a love for reading while providing access to books themselves! I think it is great that you've identified the link between economic and educational inequality and illiteracy, but I wonder if you should actually move around the first two parts of your compassionate insight. For example, do you mean to say that illiteracy and lack of book ownership is caused by the root cause of economic and educational inequality?

Another way I think you could improve your insight is to reframe your language around "households where reading is not a priority." Why is it that there are some households where people don't read as much as others? I think the root causes of that are also about economic and educational inequality, right? It may not be that reading is not a priority, but it may be that people do not have the time to read because they are focused on putting food on the table, or that they were also raised in homes without access to the resources they needed.

I'm guessing you've thought about a lot of this before -- but I think changing some of the language in the insight would help folks to understand what you mean.

I also love that you talked about raising awareness as part of this -- I think that is important for addressing the larger root causes of inequality in our education and economic system, too!

So excited for your project Max and I think it is going to be fantastic! Let us know how we can help.