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San Diego nonprofit changing lives through books

Posted at 6:06 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 21:08:00-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – Connecting children, teens, and families to the power of reading has been the mission of San Diego nonprofit Words Alive for more than two decades.

During this pandemic, they haven’t skipped a beat.

“The San Diego community is so deeply invested in the importance of literacy and just how critical literacy and education are for the success of our students,” said Rachael Orose, Executive Director for Words Alive.

Teaching kids reading and writing skills at a young age is key to that success. Orose said through Words Alive, teachers and volunteers are making sure all students have the opportunity and tools to learn through several different programs, including Read Aloud, Teen Services & Family Literacy.

“All of the data tells us if we can make you a reader, your family will be a reader. The students who we serve are often in low-income neighborhoods; they’re wrestling with homelessness, hunger, poverty, violence,” she said.

This year alone, Words Alive has received thousand of book donations through community partnerships, most recently on Wednesday.

“We picked up just over 1,700 books thanks to a partnership with the San Diego Council on Literacy and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Those books are zero to 18, they’re headed to the Monarch School in the coming weeks,” she said.

“With Words Alive, the books actually belong to the students, they’re able to write in them, they’re able to annotate them” said Jeffra Becknell, who teaches high school history at Monarch School, which serves students K-12 impacted by homelessness. “Having a physical book in their hand is such a wonderful feeling.”

Becknell has been participating with Words Alive’s Adolescent Book Group program for ten years.

“The Adolescent Book Group has been an amazing experience for my students and me; the volunteers come into the classroom, we read a book together, and then we have a book club discussion about it,” she said.

During this pandemic, discussions have moved online, but the mission has remained the same.

“We had our Adolescent Book Group online; we had it as a Zoom call. Clearly, it’s really different, but it was the same conversation,” said Becknell.

Perhaps most importantly, Orose said Words Alive makes representation a priority.

“The content reflects their lived experience, the characters look like the students we serve, the authors have similar experiences,” she said.

Words Alive currently has more than 1,000 volunteers but is always looking for more. To find out how you can become involved, click here.