About us

Our mission is to give all children the chance to read and succeed.

Our Impact

Make Way for Books is an early literacy nonprofit that provides proven programs, services, and resources to more than 30,000 young children, parents, and educators throughout southern Arizona each year. Our mission is to give all children the chance to read and succeed. We provide proven programs to ensure our youngest children discover the joy of books, develop critical emergent literacy and language skills, and start school ready. We reach young children in the critical birth to 5 years to build a foundation for all future learning. Our theory of change is that we get to every caregiver in a child’s life and ensure that, that adult understands their incredible power to impact their child’s literacy, love of learning, and success.

We received the 2022 Library of Congress American Prize is awarded for significant and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels in the United States.

A snapshot of impact across our programs:

97% of children develop critical emergent literacy and language skills that are the building blocks for future successful readers

98% of parents/caregivers gain skills and confidence to be their child’s first, most essential teacher

99% of early childhood educators gain skills to support the children in their care more effectively

Based on a sample of participating children, 75% of children who participated in Make Way for Books programming during their Pre-K years went on to score at or above benchmarks on standardized reading assessments given in kindergarten, first, second, and third grades

Our Approach

We recognize literacy is a foundation for social justice – it is a dynamic, transformative, and empowering process which can lead to personal and wider social change. As an early literacy organization, Make Way for Books works to create further educational equity and to change the educational and literacy landscape by ensuring more under-served children have the opportunity to discover the joy and power of books and reading. We exist to create social change in our community via education and a two-generation method of change that builds the agency of and connections between our families and caregivers. Empowerment is the foundation for all of our work. Empowerment is about breaking down barriers, building on strengths, and creating opportunities from those strengths. It is that positive force that carries hope and opportunity and creates genuine possibility and results.

Make Way for Books honors and celebrates the many perspectives, languages, cultures, and funds of knowledge that children and families possess. We work to ensure our staff reflects the children and families we serve and we build on the diverse strengths of families in our community to create lasting change for our youngest children. Make Way for Books has developed a social justice framework to focus and move our social justice work forward across the various domains of our organization as they relate to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The outline of this framework and the lens through which we achieve our social justice and literacy goals is accessible here.



Our story

Twenty years ago, Make Way for Books’ founder Dr. Mary Jan Bancroft found that many of the preschools and childcare centers serving economically-disadvantaged children in Tucson did not have quality books and literacy resources. In 1998, Mary Jan founded Make Way for Books and with the support of six volunteers, she began providing books and literacy workshops at five under-resourced preschools.

Today, Make Way for Books has a staff of 32, hundreds of volunteers, and last year we provided thousands of books and innovative programming to more than 30,000 children, families, and educators throughout southern Arizona.



Our Core Values

We have core values by which we do all of our work.



Our Work

Each year, Make Way for Books impacts the lives of more than 20,000 children, families, and educators throughout southern Arizona. We provide comprehensive programs that meet the diverse needs of young children, families, and educators in our community.












Learn more about our programs.

Where we’re going

Make Way for Books is committed to innovation and works strategically and creatively to provide programs and strategies that meet the diverse needs of young children, families, and educators. Click here to see our 2022-27 Strategic Plan.















Stay up to date!

Sign up to receive news about the work we do.