When Molly Cox, SA2020 President/CEO was in St. Louis earlier this year for a Lumina Foundation convening, she got into a discussion with one of our longtime partners, Audree Hernandez, a regional director for the College Advising Corps. They talked about their personal experiences with reading, and how early—and regular—reading can impact a child’s life. From college readiness to on-time degree completion, childhood reading pays big dividends.
Together, our team talked about how we could encourage kids to pick up a good book and become readers. We knew that Harlandale ISD was hosting a district-wide college and career night for middle schoolers—maybe that’s where we could plug in! Every year, the school district hosts this event to expose students to college and career opportunities, and we loved the idea of encouraging the students’ education and reading success by handing out a book to each one.
Because we believe in collaboration, we worked to identify a Partner (or several) to help us collect books for these students. In the end, we not only got a ton of books, but we learned so much more about a Partner who does this kind of thing for students (and adults) throughout the year, across the city!
SAReads is a project of Literacy San Antonio, Inc. (LSA) to significantly increase literacy and educational attainment in Bexar County. They are an official SA2020 Partner, meaning that they demonstrate how their outcomes directly impact the SA2020 Vision.
SAReads brings together students, parents, teachers, future teachers, and administrators to provide reading tutoring to elementary schoolers. Teaching students from Texas A&M San Antonio work one-on-one with students from Southwest ISD, and closely track the reading progress their students see. And the progress is there: SAReads students were 5x more likely to have fully developed reading skills at grade level than students not in the program.
While the SAReads program is currently only at Southwest ISD schools, the organization hopes to scale it to more campuses and districts soon. And in the meantime, they’re creating change across San Antonio with their incredible Book Bank.
The Book Bank has over 13,000 titles and, since its inception in 2010, they have given out nearly 200,000 books! With their help at the Harlandale ISD college and career fair, we gave out more than 100 books to students.
A few weeks ago, we stopped by to see the Book Bank in all its glory and talk with SAReads staff members. The impressive collection includes books from all genres for all age groups. They’re all donated by the community—given by both individuals and groups, like Girl Scouts and National Honor Societies. Some community members even turn their birthday parties into book drives, requesting that guests bring books for SAReads in lieu of gifts.
And while the Book Bank is huge, they’re not just holding on to these books. They distribute them constantly, and anyone in the community can request books. In 2016 alone, they’ve donated over 5,000 books to more than 40 schools and organizations.
As Executive Director Pamela Toman told us, “SAReads is solving the puzzle of teaching children to read. A critical piece of the puzzle is access to books. Research has shown that having books in the home is a key factor in determining whether or not a child becomes a proficient reader.”
If you’re feeling inspired—like we were—there are a few ways you can take action:
- If you are interested in donating books or hosting a book drive, check out the FAQs here.
- If you’d like to volunteer with SAReads to improve literacy in our community, fill out the volunteer form here.
- If your organization is interested in taking advantage of this awesome – for students or event adults – you can make a request for a Book Bank donation here.
SAReads understands, and is inspired by, the impact early reading can have on a child’s entire life, just like Molly and Audree discussed.
Or, put more simply by one young SAReads student, “Reading makes my brain smarter.”