A Heart for Children & Literacy

One day, when Karen Alworth was a little girl, her mother found her reading. She was surprised. “You’re not even in first grade yet!” she exclaimed with delight. As she grew older, Karen read to her younger brothers and sister. Not having many books of her own, the local library provided her with books that kept her reading for years to come.

When Royal Alworth was in second grade, he wasn’t reading for comprehension. His father began to read him a book by Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy—stories of nature, of the lessons a grandfather teaches his grandson. Their time reading together was very meaningful, and the stories left Royal hungry to know, “What happened next?”

These two readers married, and they taught their four children to love books, too. Their oldest child began reading in first grade to his three little sisters and in the years to come, they all took a turn reading Harry Potter to each other. Now all of them continue the tradition of loving books and libraries.

Perhaps that is why in 2019 Karen and Royal dedicated themselves to supporting Every Child Ready Duluth, a library-led, community-wide initiative with a single aim: to help ensure that every child in Duluth begins kindergarten ready to learn.

Every Child Ready Duluth focuses on early childhood intervention, providing families with the simple tools needed to help ready their children for school, and promoting a love of reading and lifelong discovery to children. Supported by a coalition of organizations across Duluth, this initiative increases the likelihood that all of Duluth’s preschoolers will succeed when they enter school.

We are grateful for Karen and Royal’s commitment to the youngest members of our community and for their desire that every child in Duluth enter kindergarten ready to learn: with a willing attitude, confidence in the process of learning, and a healthy state of mind.

Mayor Emily Larson (right) applauds as Karen Alworth announces that she and husband Royal (center) support Every Child Ready Duluth and encourage other Duluthians to do so as well.

A Bold Re-Design of the Teen Space

In 2014, teens started showing up at the downtown library in increasing numbers, and the youth librarians were delighted to welcome them. But the librarians soon realized they had a wonderful problem: There was not enough furniture in the teen space to accommodate the number of teens who were coming to the library to read, do homework, and hang out with friends.

Discussions with Library Manager Carla Powers and Youth Services staff brought about an idea: to re-design the teen space, bringing in lime green and sky blue furniture, a vibrant new carpet, and an edgy mural that would identify it as a place specifically for teens. Once the idea was conceived and a budget developed, the Foundation sought funding to make it happen.

As the school year began, the new area was revealed to the public—to the delight of teenagers.

Harbor City International School senior Sara Walsh, who was at the unveiling, said, “I’ve been coming here since, like, sixth grade, so I’ve seen it go from worn-down couches with holes in them to this.”

She added, “I’m so happy.”

High school students pose in the library’s new Teen Space the day it was unveiled in 2014.