Loving Library: Spreading Joy One Page at a Time

Loving Library, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing people in need with books, journals and other tools to improve mental health, came to life during the pandemic, after Anaik Sachdev’s mother, Anjleen Gumer, got COVID-19 when visiting New York City. Their spring break vacation to the Big Apple sent them home with an unwanted souvenir in March of 2020. At this time, Sachdev was just seven years old. 

During their family quarantine at the pandemic’s early stages, there was a lot of fear and misinformation about the virus and its effects. When the virus spread to Sachdev’s grandmother, there was much worry and uncertainty about what this meant. Sachdev’s grandmother was hospitalized for five days in a very sterile environment with no one to interact with. 

“He [Anaik] thought, ‘Gosh, I feel really bad for all these patients in the hospital. Why don’t we give books to patients like [his grandmother] who have COVID so they can pass the time because we’ve been reading a lot?’” says Gumer. 

With a mission of improving kids’ mental health and well-being through books, the Loving Library story started with the isolation of the pandemic. For Gumer and Sachdev, books became a regular part of their everyday lives during quarantine—offering them an escape from the crazy world of today and transporting them to a better tomorrow. After seeing the environment that his grandmother was in, Sachdev wanted to make an impact on the lives of someone he loved and those of strangers. 

“We used books a lot to escape the isolation that COVID brought to all of us. So, he [Anaik] wanted to share that with hospitalized patients,” says Gumer “Anaik reached out to the mayor of Phoenix, Kate Gallego, and asked which hospital needed the most help.” 

Mayor Gallego responded to Sachdev and told him that Valleywise Health, which is the county hospital in Maricopa County where over two-thirds of their patients come from low-income backgrounds, was the hospital most in need in Maricopa County.

“We donated 1,000 books to Valleywise Health and gave them to the nurses to distribute to the hospital. Our work caught on to a couple different organizations throughout the city and we were asked to have a Loving Library in their facilities,” says Gumer. “We started getting national media attention and we hit the point where other youth wanted to start their own Loving Library in their communities and impact other kids, their own ages, through their love of books.”

March is National Reading Month, a time to celebrate books and the adventures, comforts, escapes and solace that they bring to us all. This year, Loving Library celebrated National Reading Month by partnering with Valleywise Health’s family resource center to bring the joy of reading to kids in need. 

A Loving Library ambassador was sent to Valleywise Health to read a book to attending kids and they also led a STEM activity relating to the book. Gumer shares that this is “not only giving books, but sharing the joy of reading as well as an educational activity relating closely to the reading.” This is Loving Library’s first year celebrating National Book Month in this way.

In today’s world, where books are underappreciated due to digital platforms such as TikTok and Instagram—which both offer instant gratification—it is inspiring to see the vision and work that has been put in by the Loving Library and its ambassadors. 

“It’s really inspiring to see these kids and their love for books. With the mental health crisis, the online world is a really scary place to live as a child right now. Books are a great way to maybe escape some of the stress of everyday life, and I think our youth are turning to these books almost as a therapy,” says Gumer. “Research shows that reading a book for six minutes a day reduces stress by over 60%. I think it’s really inspiring and exciting to see our youth use books and journals to improve their mental health. 

Loving Library has a vision of “cultivating future generations of philanthropists” and they hope to teach kids who come from privileged backgrounds the joys of giving and hope they will continue to do this throughout their lives. 

They have expanded their vision far beyond only donating to Valley residents in need. Loving Library sent grief kits to the witnesses and victims of the Uvalde school shooting, in hopes of helping students go back to school with less fear. They have also sent books to Afghanistan and Ukrainian war refugees along with children of abuse, giving them books and journals to process their feelings and experiences. 

Loving Library has donated over 1,000 books to St. Joseph’s NICU in Phoenix, helping parents bond with their newborn children through reading while they are unable to hold and touch their baby. 

“The kids that we provide these books for, it’s not just a book. It’s an outlet to escape a really tragic situation, a sad day, a scary world. Oftentimes, we give books to kids who have gone through really traumatic situations and the books help them to understand how to process their emotions in a constructive way,” saus Gumer. 

The nonprofit organization has 22 chapters, spanning across Arizona, Texas, California and the United Kingdom. They have 17 ambassadors, which means 17 young kids who started their own chapters. The youngest ambassador is 6 and the oldest is 17. These chapters have worked together to donate over 15,000 books worldwide, which translates to about 15,000 kids.

Gumer expresses her love and appreciation for local libraries and encourages anyone who can attend them as well. She highlights the benefits, such as libraries being free and the almost unlimited resources available to anyone. “It’s always an amazing experience, and it teaches kids the responsibility to be responsible for their book and to check it out and back in,” Gumer shares.

Loving Library frequently partners with Changing Hands bookstore, and Gumer highly recommends this spot to anyone: from avid readers to newbies. There is something for everyone here. She also notes that it is a great spot to sit down with a book, a place meant for escape. 

Gumer shared that one of her favorite books to read to her kids is Lovely by Jess Hong. The message and impact it has left on her children is something that she greatly admires, and it is why she highly recommended this book to parents, kids, adults, teens, whoever! It’s something that will change your perspective on the difference between “weird” and “lovely.” 

Loving Library, born from pandemic isolation, spreads empathy through books. As National Reading Month wraps, their global impact echoes, bringing solace to kids worldwide. Let’s keep their kindness alive!

To learn more about Loving Library, visit thelovinglibrary.org or check out their Instagram at @loving_library. 

Photos courtesy Loving Library

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