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Hollywood’s humanitarians: How Project Runway‘s Tim Gunn is saving the world

Tim Gunn talks about his part in Disney Junior’s new “Give a Book, Get a Book” campaign and why he feels reading is so important, especially for young people.

Photo credit: HRC/

If you think Tim Gunn only spends his time thinking about fashion, think again. He’s also a man fighting for some very important issues, including literacy.

Gunn is a part of Disney Junior’s new “Give a Book, Get a Book” campaign, which will help children have access to books.

“When you purchase a book, the ‘Give a Book, Get a Book’ organization will match that book,” Gunn explained. “They’re giving them away to children who need books and have little access to them. They’re going to be giving away up to a million books, which is really great.”

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Reading is a passion of Gunn’s, which made him want to be a part of the campaign and teach younger people that it’s OK to step away from technology and read an actual book sometimes.

“Whenever I hear the word ‘book,’ my ears perk up because I’m such an advocate for reading and I’m woeful about the fact that there seem to be fewer and fewer people who are reading, especially young people with all their gadgets. It’s not that I don’t believe in Kindle and e-books; of course, I do. In fact, I subscribe myself.”

Gunn, who has been very open about his struggles as a young gay man, admitted that books were often his way of seeking escape.

“The book experience is so important and it is very personal for me because, as a kid, books were my solace. Books were my escape; they were a safe haven and I couldn’t get enough of them and I was lucky to have grown up in a house that was built with books. My mother was a librarian so we were a very book-filled household.”

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In fact, there was one book in particular that helped Gunn escape his sometimes-less-than-happy family life.

“I think, probably the [book] that had the most profound influence on me was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The story was such a wishful metaphor for me because I would have given anything to have found that rabbit hole to plunge down into that fantasy world.”

When talking about books and encouraging kids to read, Gunn got very emotional about what kind of an impact the campaign could have on children.

“I’m just hoping that the experience of holding a book and seeing the printed words and turning the pages will be a turn-on [for young people]. I think that a lot of kids who will be on the receiving end of this program — and I kind of choke up when I say this — it may be the first book they actually encounter. I’m just hoping that it will be a catalyst for wanting more [books].”

Gunn had a message for young people who haven’t yet discovered the joy of reading.

“What I want to say to young people, in particular, is — and I get chills when I think about it — there is a world waiting for you that is going to transform you and your view of yourself and of the world and how exciting and thrilling is that? You need to open the portal and jump in.”

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The “Give a Book, Get a Book” program is something that Gunn hopes will change the world.

“It’s a gift to be a part of it and I can’t imagine not wanting to be a part of it. I feel we’re all lucky and blessed to have it available and we should all take advantage of it. It’s about helping the world be a better place and you do it one step at a time, and as far as I’m concerned, this is a very major step.”

Hollywood Humanitarians

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