MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A new, first-of-its-kind library opened in Memphis, Tenn. this week thanks to a partnership between Homewood Suites by Hilton and early childhood education advocacy group, the Books for Kids Foundation.  The "Lewis the Duck Reading Library" - named after the Homewood Suites' mascot - is located on the campus of the Martin Luther King Jr. Head Start Center at 626 South Lauderdale in downtown Memphis.  Homewood Suites partnered with Books for Kids and Shelby County Head Start to host a special community event at the library on July 28 which was attended by approximately 300 students and their families.  This opening is the first in a series of libraries Homewood Suites will introduce over the next several years as the hotel brand helps Books for Kids expand nationally.

"We're thrilled to open our first reading library right here in Memphis where Homewood Suites is headquartered," said Bill Duncan, global head of brand management, Homewood Suites by Hilton.  "Childhood literacy is a significant national issue and Homewood Suites felt that it was very important to get involved and do our part to improve literacy rates among today's young people."

The new reading library will ensure that the approximately 200 preschoolers served by the center have access to new age-appropriate books, reading programs and other educational tools. 

Recent statistics illustrate that approximately one out of four children grows up not knowing how to read.  Additionally, 80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations are without age-appropriate books.  Children in middle-income neighborhoods enjoy a ratio of 13 books per child, while in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is one age-appropriate book for every 300 children.

"Access to age-appropriate books is a key factor in helping children succeed in life," said Shawna Doster, executive director, Books for Kids.  "That's why we are so thankful to Homewood Suites for this amazing opportunity to provide a beautiful library and new library-quality books to even more children."

The Homewood Suites brand team has been working closely with the Head Start center and Books for Kids in the complete renovation of the space which previously served as an unused classroom.  Included in the refurbishment of the room are the addition of a wall and the complete transformation of the space with child-like duck benches, reading forts, rainbows, and Leap Frog learning centers, resulting in a truly magical educational environment.  Homewood Suites team members arrived prior to the start of the event to stock approximately 1,000 books and put the finishing touches on the library. 

"We love being of service to our guests and communities as shown by the support our Memphis-based Homewood Suites team members have given to this project," said Carla Raynor, vice president of marketing, Homewood Suites.  "We look forward to expanding our commitment to children's education in communities all over the country with the opening of additional libraries in the U.S. over the next several years."

Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford and City of Memphis Mayor AC Wharton attended the event, as well as Shawna Doster, executive director of Books for Kids and executives from Homewood Suites.  Attendees were treated to a ribbon-cutting ceremony with local dignitaries, a catered BBQ lunch and personal tours of the new library.

Childhood literacy is a major philanthropic focus for the Homewood Suites brand.  In 2008, it introduced a book series penned by its mascot, Lewis the Duck, which helps explain business travel to children.  Two books are currently available, including "Lewis the Duck and His Long Trip," and "Lewis Goes to Canada" which was published last year.  The mascot will find himself visiting south of the border this fall with the introduction of "Lewis Goes to Mexico."

Brad Carmony
Homewood Suites Brand Communications
+1 901 374 6518

About Books for Kids
To date, Books for Kids has opened 65 libraries in the New York Tri-State area stocking approximately 25,000 books and giving away another 5 million.  The organization's mission is to provide the resources preschool-aged children and their families need to build a solid foundation for learning and competing academically with their peers.  For more information visit

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