LOUISVILLE, Ky. — What started as a summer camp created by a pair of teachers and reading interventionists, is now much more.
“I have a lot of books at home. It’s like a library with my books,” says JLexis Anderson.
Anderson also enjoys playing outside and styling hair, but for her nothing compares to reading.
“You learn stuff from reading sometimes. Reading is really good where you can be really calm and just peaceful reading in a calm place or your spot where you like to sit or in a corner somewhere,” says Anderson.
Her favorite book right now is “Be Kind.” It holds a lesson she thinks everyone should know.
“What it means to be kind is like being nice to someone, treat someone how you want to be treated. If you do want to be treated like that, then don’t treat anyone like that,” says Anderson.
She discovered the book in Read to Lead, an I Would Rather Be Reading program.
The nonprofit provides fair access to books and other materials aimed at supporting children trying to overcome trauma.
Program teachers like Brianna Thomas are trained as trauma-informed reading mentors.
“The goals of the program are to help kids better themselves with their social skills and better themselves,” says Thomas.
During the after-school program, students receive tutoring to help boost their reading levels.
Before they dive into books, teachers help students identify and express their feelings.
“I came from a household where kids should be seen and not heard, and I feel like that’s not right. Everybody deserves to hear their voice. Everybody deserves to be seen and heard and feel like they’re a part of something and not feel like they’re just a kid and they have to be quiet,” says Thomas.
Anderson says she feels relieved when she talks about how she feels.
“If you feel bad and you don’t know what to do, you can tell someone like, can I get a break? Because I was like, is this too hard for me I just need a break to calm and think, I really need to and I just don’t know what to do. I’m going through some things at home you can tell him that if you are,” says Anderson. “It’s good to express your feelings.”
The program is a safe space led by trusting mentors helping children be their best selves.
“They mean to me like they’re my best friends,” says Anderson.
I Would Rather Be Reading has trained almost 30 trauma-informed reading mentors, partnered with three schools, and created training courses for teachers and nonprofits.
Its programming is offered at eight community centers around Louisville.