Giving Story: R.J. Julia Booksellers

Partnering to Make a Difference

Like many small business owners, Roxanne Coady is R.J. Julia Booksellers. The independent book store, located in Madison, offers Roxanne plenty of opportunities to connect her passion for reading with her civic and charitable interests. Says Roxanne, “I find it is handy to have the pulpit of a store to help charities. It’s part of who I am; I was raised this way. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to make a difference.”

Five years ago, Roxanne was approached by a local affiliate of the national literacy organization Reach Out and Read. The local group, which gave a book to children each time they went to Fair Haven Community Health Center for a check-up, was running out of books. Roxanne and R.J. Julia got involved, filling two school buses with 12,000 books to give out. Inspired by their success, Roxanne was then the impetus behind Books for Babies, a program to give every mom and baby leaving a local hospital a book. It quickly grew from a donor-advised fund at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and took on a life of its own as Read to Grow, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is an umbrella for Reach Out and Read, Books for Babies and a host of other literacy programs for people of all ages. Roxanne is chair of the board of Read to Grow.

R.J. Julia Booksellers and its partners are helping people of all ages develop a love of reading.

“Whenever possible I try to partner with other organizations that are working to help families develop a love of reading, versus reinventing the wheel,” says Roxanne. Her leadership also brings more businesses to the table. In 1998, she approached Citizens Bank to be a corporate sponsor of Books for Babies. The bank jumped at the opportunity to introduce itself to the New Haven region. According to bank spokeswoman Heather Tolley, “Roxanne is so convincingly passionate about this cause. Once the need was laid out, we wanted to be part of the solution. Books for Babies gave us the opportunity to come in on the ground floor as a founding sponsor.”

“A good way to sell people on giving is to describe it as the opportunity to make a difference in the world,” says Roxanne. Read to Grow now hands out 12,000 new books and recirculates 30,000 gently used books each year. With their many nonprofit and business partners, Roxanne Coady and R.J. Julia Booksellers are certainly making a difference.