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Happy Ending

After 20 years in marketing and government, Laurie Flynn ’11GS became president and CEO of Link to Libraries, a nonprofit that promotes childhood literacy.

Laurie Flynn ’11GS says her love affair with the written word took on magical qualities as a sixth-grader growing up in Washington, D.C. It was then that the avowed bibliophile first read Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, in which the fictional heroine Scout Finch navigates racial depravity in the Deep South.

“Her voice captured me,” Flynn says. “I was about Scout’s age as I was reading the book, and she was such a brave, inspiring young woman. She was funny, strong, and quick. I loved everything about her.”

After a more-than two-decade career in marketing and government, Flynn decided to pen a new chapter in her professional life. In September, she became president and CEO of Link to Libraries (LTL), a nonprofit based in Hampden, MA, that promotes childhood literacy and donates books to 72 school libraries in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut.

“We know that the more access children have to books, the more likely they are to read, and the more likely they are to read, the better their chances for success.” —President and CEO of Link to Libraries Laurie Flynn ’11GS

There’s urgency to the work. In Massachusetts, less than half of third-graders read at grade level, Flynn says. She hopes to ultimately expand the roster of schools, and create a writing component so students can tell their own stories.

“The studies show if you don’t read proficiently by the end of third grade, your chances of catching up are slim,” Flynn notes, adding that such students are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

“We know for a fact that the more access children have to books, the more likely they are to read, and the more likely they are to read, the better their chances for success in school and in life.”

Even while working in marketing and government, Flynn wrote—and continues to write—book reviews for Kirkus Reviews. She enrolled in Simmons’ MFA program in children’s literature because “I decided that it was time to own up and publicly admit to the fact that I had a passion for children’s literature.”

Her Simmons experience exposed her to the deep well of authors and illustrators based in western Massachusetts.

“Through Simmons, I’ve been able to tap into that network in my role in Linked to Libraries,” Flynn says. I’m able to call upon those authors, who are just incredibly inspirational.”

She’s the author of four books, one of them written for middle-schoolers, the other three in the young-adult genre. An agent is pitching the most recent novel, which Flynn describes as a coming-of-age story, to publishing houses.

“I apparently either have the voice of a 12-year-old-boy, or a very angsty teenage girl,” says Flynn, the mother of two sons.

Founded a decade ago, LTL doesn’t just donate books (which are funded by business partners and donors in the communities it serves). It also enlists volunteers to read in the classroom. Flynn did that for several years in Springfield, MA, until LTL’s former president and CEO announced her plans to retire, and urged Flynn to apply.

It was a plot development that she couldn’t deny.

“To have the opportunity to merge my personal passion and my work experience, it felt like the stars aligned,” Flynn says. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t say no to.”

Nothing beats a happy ending.