Our Founder and Executive Director, Linda Smith, has long been witness to the creativity, spirit, and resourcefulness of people living on the margins. It's what fuels her desire to take action in solidarity with them and forms the foundation of Reading Village's powerful and sustainable model for change.

For 25 years Linda’s work and volunteer efforts included addressing homelessness, mentoring inner city youth, teaching public school and promoting community and environmental sustainability. During those years she also traveled to Guatemala, achieved her goal of becoming fluent in Spanish and then built a business to import and sell Guatemalan woven goods. She made a promise to herself that she’d one day do something more for some of the 2 billion people on the planet who lived in extreme poverty. She made good on that promise twelve years later in 2006 when, at a crossroads in her life, she envisioned an organization that would expose some of the poorest and least literate children in the Western Hemisphere to the joy and power of reading – giving them the tools to make a better life for themselves.

Reading Village was born from a desire to inspire children to dream and to empower them to achieve those dreams.

Believing in the power of reading to do both, we have designed a program to change lives through literacy. Reading Village’s success lies in our ability to find and engage emergent local leaders. Working in marginalized communities, our model begins with extraordinary teens with dreams of a better future not only for themselves but also for the communities in which they live. We pay for their high school education and help them develop their leadership skills and capacity to change the lives of the people around them. Ultimately this investment in a teen becomes an investment in the younger children they read to, their own families, and their communities.

Addressing the primary barrier to literacy – lack of access to books – Reading Village began in 2007 by bringing donations of books to low-resource communities. Interested in expanding and deepening our impact, we built a mentorship and scholarship program that would impact a larger population in a much more significant way. After reflection and modification – a continual process – we are proud to have refined a model that changes the lives of students, families, and entire communities through sustainable and scalable literacy projects. What started with six reading promoters and a few dozen books has grown to include more than 50 teens and alumni, thousands of children, and three incredible communities. And we’re just getting started!