As an editor who makes his living with the written word, it should come as no surprise that I’m an avid reader. I love books, always have, always will. Bill Duncan, global head of Home2 Suites by Hilton and Homewood Suites by Hilton, shares the same passion.
Last week at The Lodging Conference in Phoenix, Ariz., I had a chance to sit down with Duncan to discuss Homewood Suites’ Books for Kids initiative. “I’m an avid reader. I used to read to my kids all the time when they were younger,” he told me in the lobby of the Arizona Biltmore.
Duncan’s love of books, and his recognition that many interstate travelers—especially those who stay at extended-stay hotels—spend too much time away from their children, led to a thought. “One day we just said, ‘Why don’t we write a book about Lewis going on a trip?’” he recalled. “It’s a way of explaining to children why dad is away for so long.”
He was talking about Homewood Suites’ Lewis the Duck series. While the first book featured an explanation of why dads often have to go away for work, a second focused on mom’s frequent trips. And, the series evolved from there.
It was soon after that the books became a centerpiece of Homewood Suites’ brandwide childhood literacy initiative and its partnership with the early childhood education advocacy group The Books for Kids Foundation.
Books for Kids takes over unused rooms in existing childcare centers in low-income neighborhoods and transforms them into educational environments, with thousands of books and fun opportunities for learning.
For its part, Homewood Suites has opened four Books for Kids library, with the latest in Phoenix. Previous openings were in Memphis, Tenn.; Washington, D.C.; and Irving, Texas. It’s not simply about building libraries, however. The company has donated more than 3,000 books to Books for Kids libraries throughout North America, and associates of the brand’s properties have donated more than 1,000 hours reading to kids in Head Start programs and libraries.
“It’s a way for our associates to give back to their communities,” Duncan said. He says many of the parents who read the Lewis books to their children often bring their children back with them to the hotels to meet the staff.
With the opening of the libraries, Homewood Suites hopes to continue to help build childhood literacy beyond its own doors. While Duncan and his team at Homewood Suites are busy building a brand that continues to grow quickly, they’re taking time out to ensure that children everywhere have the opportunity to discover the joys of reading.
That’s something to which I can certainly relate.