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 designed our Leaders and Readers Program that leverages youth leadership, education and literacy to impact a larger population in a much more significant way. After implementation, reflection and modification – a continual process – we are proud to have refined a model that changes the lives of students, families, and entire communities to break the cycle of generational poverty.
What started with six youth leaders reading to a couple hundred children has grown to include over 100 teens and alumni, more than 10,000 children and five incredible communities. More important than numbers is the systemic and self-perpetuating change that has been set into motion. Children in the Leaders and Readers Program have higher than average reading comprehension scores, (26% above the national average!) and have developed critical and creative thinking skills not taught in schools. And now, in our eleventh year, children from the program are stepping into the shoes of the teens who once read to them. Teens in the program find their voice, self-esteem and develop leadership skills as they read to the children and participate in our leadership development workshops. They take on community improvement projects, graduate high school and join our growing numbers of alumni who are competing for jobs that can double their family incomes. Almost half of our alumni are continuing their studies at university and those who are starting families are starting a new cycle in which education and literacy are the norm.Meet Our Founder