Posted by on Nov 20, 2020 Views: 3818

Change the World with Reading: 6 Organizations Helping Children Across the Globe Improve Their Literacy

Did you know that students who don’t know how to read at a proficient level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school? High school dropouts are more likely to be arrested, become pregnant as teenagers, and have a hard time finding steady employment. Organizations that work to improve reading skills among young children help the community in more ways than just being able to pick up good books. The more literate a student is, the better chances they have in many different aspects of life. Incarceration rates are lowered and graduation changes are higher. Plus, aside from reading, the programs offer children the chance to have additional adult support and mentorship.

We wanted to highlight just a few of the incredible nonprofits who make it their mission to improve reading skills among students in the U.S. and around the world.

Source: Unsplash


Piedmont, CA

This nonprofit operates with the vision of a planet where everyone can read and have access to interesting reading materials in any language they want. Their innovation, Same Language Subtitling (SLS), has been implemented in several TV studies in India and was so successful that there is a national policy to implement SLS on 50 percent of all Indian TV entertainment by 2025. By putting the captions on famous Bollywood songs and other popular programming, more people are seeing the words they are hearing. The studies show that just 30 minutes of weekly exposure to SLS programming can make a person functionally literate.

PlanetRead’s deceptively simple approach is flexible enough to expand literacy in many different contexts (adults and children, speakers of India’s local languages as well as Hindi speakers). The work they’re doing now takes the concept of same-language subtitling to new audiences as well as to their traditional viewership on televised song programs. With PlanetRead’s continuing innovation and dedication, and with financial support from donations and grants, I hope the dream of a fully literate India will come true in my lifetime. I’m happy to do my part!

Source: Unsplash

Beyond Basics

Southfield, MI

Beyond Basics is an organization that provides one-on-one reading tutoring and literacy programs. They have been working with schools in the Detroit metro area since 2002. With the partnership of the schools, they are able to work with children who are behind in reading and get them caught up to their grade level. They were able to open their own center in 2018 that offers reading services, GED and SAT prep courses, and other community support services.

When I volunteered I did not expect to be impacted in such a large way. It was really eye-opening to see the impact this program is making on kids of all ages. What they are doing for the community is not just “tutoring” them on how to read, but also setting them up with a life skill that will have a positive impact on not only their personal life currently, but also the generation that will follow after.

A tutor and a kid learning at RITES.

Rhode Island Tutorial & Educational Services (RITES)

Pawtucket, R.I.

RITES is another incredible nonprofit dedicated to helping the children in their community improve their reading skills. They offer one-on-one personalized sessions and small-group classes. The organization really focuses on the importance of tracked progress, close parent communication, and resources once the student is no longer in the program for continued success.

My son is 10 years old and has ADHD and dyslexia. He has always struggled in school. We have been trying to get him the services he needs in school but have been unsuccessful. It has been since first grade that we have been trying. He is now in the fourth grade. In February 2018 we met with Lisa from RITES. We were connected with an Orton-Gillingham tutor and an educational advocate. Both have helped tremendously. After only three months of tutoring my son has advanced one grade level in reading. The best part is that he loves his tutor and skips in and out of his sessions. He even seems happier overall. The advocate has successfully gotten us what we needed in his IEP. There is still more work to do but so far, so good. In one meeting with the school and the RITES advocate we were able to identify what was missing in the IEP and have appropriate goals and accommodations added. Previous meetings were filled with long discussions that never resulted in much change. We are so happy we found RITES!

Volunteers at Be the star You Are

Be the Star You Are!

Moraga, CA

Be the Star You Are! collects and distributes books and produces their own original positive media messages for women, families, and youth at risk. The media messages are to help teach life skills and share positive, happy messages. One of their major programs is the Operation Disaster Relief where books, games, and other resources are distributed to areas affected by disasters. It’s clear that they are passionate about being a positive place for people in their community to turn to.

I just started as a member of the Be the Star You Are! team and it has been absolutely amazing! I have gotten to interview really cool people and I am given opportunities of a lifetime that I wouldn’t have gotten without being a part of this. Through this nonprofit, I am able to express my love for broadcast journalism, raise awareness about prevalent global issues, and grow in my confidence as an aspiring journalist. Cynthia is so sweet and she is a huge mentor to me and is always spreading love and positivity to everyone. She is really passionate about what she does and cares about everyone she works with. I am so happy to be a part of this team!!

Source: Unsplash

Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

Tallahassee, FL

Former first lady Barbara Bush strongly believed that literacy is critical to the success of not just individuals, but also our nation as a whole, and the foundation she started decades ago has provided more than $110 million in support for literacy programs in all 50 states. Its mission is to establish literacy as a value in every home in America, and its vision is to achieve 100 percent literacy in America.

My students go to a local elementary class to help students increase their reading skills. They are considered at risk, and with the extra attention received the youngsters form positive relationships and get intensive vocabulary, main idea, pronouncing words, and other reading building blocks to improve their reading levels. The foundation’s Teen Trendsetters reading mentoring program is a great program that has varying levels of reading materials that students are interested in and after a book is completed, the students can take the book home with them to share with other brothers or sisters and reread it themselves.

Hands Across the Sea at Dominica

Hands Across the Sea

Boston, MA

Hands Across the Sea works to promote literacy in the Caribbean islands. It works to send new books requested by local educators. It also helps to create or fix up libraries to make books more accessible to more people. These programs help encourage more reading among children and adults and improve literacy levels. Through its fundraising work, Hands Across the Sea has been able to send hundreds of thousands of books to children in different Carribean countries.

My name is Vernella Henderson Dumas and I am a teacher at the Christian Union Primary School and I must say, Hands Across the Sea has been nothing short of a blessing for our institution. Being a private school, we are often overlooked by the higher-ups in relation to our school needs. After losing our library during Hurricane Maria, we were beginning to accept that we would never be able to supply this need for our students. Hands Across the Sea came in like angels and provided us with a plethora of reading material! We, as staff, enjoyed sitting together to stamp and tag the books in great expectancy of the students’ excitement. Giselle, their representative, was kind, helpful, and pleasant, and even guided us through the process of book prep and how to run our library with student librarians successfully. Such dedication. We have trained our student librarians who run the day-to-day activities in the library. The students are beyond overjoyed and can’t get enough of the books! To add icing to this wonderful cake, we were fortunate to receive the Hands Across the Sea School Library Award for being the best student-run library on our island, Dominica! Thank you Hands Across the Sea! We are thankful for all you do for us and look forward to continuing this wonderful relationship onwards!

Please consider these wonderful organizations to support. In giving them a donation, you’ll be directly helping the future of the world and giving children the gift of reading. I don’t know about you, but diving into a good book is one of my favorite things to do and everyone should have this opportunity!