NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark.– Every week, 7-year-old Rodrigo looks forward to reading several books to his mentor, Donald Wood. The second-grader has shown more interest in picking up a book.
“It takes me to a different place,” says Rodrigo.
To instill a love of reading, a $24,425 dollar grant was awarded to AR Kids Read, a non-profit dedicated to helping kids read at grade level. The money was donated by First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education. It will go towards new books that will go to elementary school children living in low-income communities.
“The literacy part is the main part and obviously that’s the goal, but the main part is just the relationship we build with them,” says Donald Wood, Volunteer.
Donald has volunteered since AR Kids Read first started in 2012, after learning up to 70 percent of children are not reading at grade level.
“Those students who are not reading at grade level, those are predictors of students going to prison or not graduating high school,” says Donald.
The mission is also important to Tjuana Byrd. The improvements she’s seeing in the children she tutors show her, these new books and weekly tutoring is working.
“I’m excited she enjoys reading, I don’t have to press her to read, she picks a book she likes,” says Tjuana Byrd, Volunteer.
Research finds books in the home improves educational outcomes, yet low-income communities across the nation are plagued by vast book deserts. That’s why the grant money will go along way and get books to kids who don’t have one at home.
“It’s making a difference because it’s just another opportunity for them to have to read,” says Tjuana.
AR Kids Read will give away several thousand books this spring semester. The non-profit is always looking for volunteers and accepting book donations. You can contact them here