Blue Manatee Literacy Project and Bookstore Wins Binc and PRH’s Indies With Impact Grant

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The Blue Manatee Literacy Project and Bookstore in Cincinnati, Ohio, has been named the winner of the inaugural Indies with Impact prize.

Christine Stotz (PRH), Pam French (Binc), Veronica Valerio (PRH), Jill Burket Ragase (Blue Manatee), and Amanda Kranias (Blue Manatee).
Christine Stotz (PRH), Pam French (Binc), Veronica Valerio (PRH), Jill Burket Ragase, and Amanda Kranias (Blue Manatee)

The Indies with Impact grant program was created by the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) and Penguin Random House as a way to recognize, support, and strengthen the connections bookstores have with their neighbors; PRH will be providing funding for the winner’s community-based initiative.

Amanda Kranias, the director of the Blue Manatee Literacy Project and Bookstore, told Binc that the grant “will accelerate the implementation of our Near-Peer mentoring program to a larger group of students, building relationships that boost reading confidence and leadership skills.”

Blue Manatee’s Near-Peer Mentoring program is a partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools through which middle-school-aged mentors provide basic reading instruction and skill development to younger readers. The store will supply books to participating students in three to four public elementary and middle schools, and as the program grows, other logistical support to students from public schools across Cincinnati.

The idea behind the Near-Peer Mentoring program was to set young readers up for success by creating a project that brings together experts to build literacy programming and providing the underserved readers with the materials needed to participate in the program.

The selection committee for the Indies With Impact grant was made up of industry professionals from Penguin Random House and the Binc Foundation’s program committee, and received applications from large, small, newly established, and long-time community bookstores from all over the country. Entrants’ various project proposals promoted book access for underserved communities, community-building work through adult literacy programs, and a variety of reading programs that serve children and teens. 

Blue Manatee store interior
Interior view of the Blue Manatee Literacy Project and Bookstore

“Supporting independent bookstores is at the heart of the mission of book publishing,” said Jaci Updike, president of sales at Penguin Random House. “Reaching local communities is central to everything we do at Penguin Random House. We are thrilled to congratulate Blue Manatee Literacy Project and Bookstore on receiving this inaugural award and look forward to seeing the success of their initiative.”

“This unique collaboration with Penguin Random House will give The Blue Manatee Literacy Project and Bookstore funds to build and grow their program working with students in Cincinnati Public Schools,” added Pam French, Binc’s executive director. “We are grateful for this opportunity to work with Penguin Random House on Indies with Impact, because of how the prize honors, recognizes and supports the vital role bookstores play in their communities.”