2013 CVAs: Indy Reads 

click to enlarge Travis DiNicola, director of Indy Reads and founder of Indy Reads Books - MARK A. LEE
  • Travis DiNicola, director of Indy Reads and founder of Indy Reads Books
  • Mark A. Lee

Editors note: A ceremony to honor all 2013 CVA honorees will take place at Indiana Landmarks Center, Friday, starting at 6 p.m. with a reception. The ceremony will begin at 7:15 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

The plan has always been to have a bookstore with an inventory that was mainly used and donated books, and tie it to a cause: Indy Reads. "It's a way to not just raise money, but raise awareness," says Travis DiNicola, director of Indy Reads and founder of Indy Reads Books on the east end of Mass Ave,

Indy Reads is a long-standing nonprofit organization dedicated to helping adults learn to read. The lack of literacy skills among adults is a massive problem in central Indiana. These adults are unemployable for most jobs, since they have to be able to read at an eighth grade level to qualify for a GED, the equivalent of a high school diploma. "Illiteracy is a spectrum in terms of skills," DiNicola says. "The best information that we have is that approximately 6 to 7 percent of adults 18 and older within central Indiana have no literacy skills whatsoever."

Indy Reads trains volunteers to tutor adults who come forward to improve their literacy skills. Over the years, Indy Reads has produced a number of programs, from spelling bees to scavenger hunts, in an effort to help people better understand the dimensions of adult illiteracy and to raise the funds needed to address the issue.

Indy Reads Books is the organization's latest - and most ambitious - venture, one that literally places Indy Reads on the city's map. It's a full-fledged used bookstore, a shop with a large inventory of books in all categories, along with a choice selection of new titles.

The store also features a stage for intimate public programs, with seating for up to 35, and a children's area. In just its first year, Indy Reads Books has not only provided its parent organization with a visible presence in a desirable location - on Mass Ave, hard by the Cultural Trail - but it has also offered the public a range of adult and children's literary programs, in addition to tutoring for adult learners.

When Borders closed its Washington Street bookstore, Downtown lost its only destination book retailer. DiNicola and his team have worked to fill this void. Located in an 1800's-era building, Indy Reads Books has been a welcome addition to its burgeoning neighborhood, creating a Downtown locus for the city's writing community, book lovers - and all those people who are making the effort to join their number.

As DiNicola says, "A bookstore can be the heart of a community."

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