Global literacy nonprofit Worldreader is partnering with various youth social groups and educational programs around Atlanta to motivate students to read more books as a new academic year begins.
Following its collaboration with Atlanta Habitat for Humanity last year, the organization partnered with an array of programs and events over the summer to help increase young readers’ access to books and prepare them to excel in the classroom.
One of Worldreader’s largest events of the season was Atlanta Literacy Day, a yearly gathering organized by Young Authors Publishing and the Home Depot Backyard. The event brings together local kids and literacy activists to experience reading through interactive stations and activities while exposing them to books written by Black, indigenous and other child authors of color. Worldreader participated for the second consecutive year by offering attending children access to their digital reading application, Booksmart, a mobile library for kids aged 3-12 featuring thousands of books available in multiple languages.
Kristen Walter, Worldreader’s director of U.S. programs, said this year’s Literacy Day was one of the organization’s most successful public events, generating a turnout of about 100 adults and children.
“It was really wonderful to be able to speak with children and their caregivers or their program leaders about how to continue reading through the summer, and then as they’re really kicking off toward the fall, really thinking about how to support their caregivers so that they have the opportunity to read both in school and outside of school,” Walter said. “It’s one of our favorite things we do all year.”
The nonprofit has many local projects slated for this fall as well, including work with the Georgia Head Start Association and HeartBound Ministries to help the adults in children’s lives provide the resources needed to instill a love of reading in their kids.
Worldreader has also begun working with LaAmistad and the Agape Youth and Family Center, organizations that work year-round with students from underserved communities to improve individual performance both inside and outside the classroom.
Vera Woods, academic coordinator for LaAmistad, which also received a monetary grant from Worldreader this year, said she anticipates the Booksmart app to be well-received among the nonprofit’s students, many of whom learn English as a second language. She also said that reading comprehension is a foundational skill that sets kids on paths to success later in life.
“We want to make sure that we’re not only growing readers here at LaAmistad, but we’re growing Georgia readers,” Woods said. “Because our kids know if you can read it, you can write it. If you can write it, you can read it.”
Wes Wooten, director of programs at the Agape Youth and Family Center, said Worldreader’s resources fit into the organization’s existing programming easily, and help generate real-world learning opportunities for their students to get involved in. The AYFC strives for its students to attain reading proficiency by the third grade.
“We have to be able to give children the opportunity to show that they’re learning what we’re teaching,” Wooten said. “And that’s much more special to capture in real time than over a worksheet.”
But children are only part of the solution. Walter said Worldreader is shifting its focus on parents and guardians with its approach to improving youth literacy, as they are also responsible for creating an atmosphere at home where reading is encouraged and treated like a valuable pastime. The nonprofit’s work with Georgia Head Start specifically involves helping young caregivers who lack the educational resources needed to support their families. Their collaboration with HeartBound Ministries assists kids with caregivers who are incarcerated.
LaAmistad also hosts programs for adults promoting healthy family environments in addition to their programs for K-12-aged students.
Through its efforts, Worldreader aims to motivate kids and their families to read at least 25 books over the course of a year. Walter said that collaborating with caretakers and after-school programs to increase reading opportunities outside of school hours should effectively place students in a position to achieve this goal.
Walter also said that Worldreader is extending its outreach into schools, already breaking into the scene with Centennial Academy and Ethos Classical, tuition-free charter schools serving the Atlanta Public Schools district. Despite this expansion, Worldreader is still searching for new nonprofits to partner with that complement their vision and are working to improve reading habits in children, either directly or indirectly.
“The collaborative nature between nonprofits has been a really great thing, bringing together people who are looking at the same issue—improving literacy rates for children and supporting caregivers to be able to come alongside and do that,” Walter said.