REACH Literacy Nonprofit Boosts Reading Rates in Sioux Falls Area
Six percent of people in Sioux Falls and the surrounding area may be “poorly literate” or completely illiterate, says Paige Carda. This represents up to 16,000 people in the community.
She has been working to increase literacy in the city for nine years through REACH Literacy, a non-profit organization that offers literacy classes and experiences to young and adult readers every year through private lessons, community events and a used bookstore.
Now REACH is seeking community support to continue its literacy efforts through an A Community Thrives grant from the Argus Leader and the Gannett Foundation. This is a national grant-making and crowdfunding initiative with a chance to win $ 2 million in grants.
Funding for REACH’s work comes largely from the sale of donated books in its bookstore. REACH also obtains funding online and through special events.
If awarded the grant, Carda said she will be part of what will keep the organization alive for years to come.
And, people forget that nonprofits need money to support the continuation of programs that benefit the community, Carda said.
âIt’s great to start a program and have a pilot project for that, but you have to have ongoing support to keep that going,â she said. Donations “build the capacity for us to have a cushion” to keep REACH going.
The history of REACH spans decades in Sioux Falls
Learning to read and acquire knowledge is ânot a hindrance, it is not a failure; it’s just something you weren’t offered, âsaid Carda, the executive director of REACH.
âOur goal is to always uplift people,â she said.
In 1986, a group of women who volunteered to help inmates at South Dakota State Penitentiary learn to read founded the Sioux Falls Area Literacy Council.
Eventually the group changed the name to REACH. Carda remembers when she started with the organization nine years ago, the office was housed at a non-profit center near the Sioux Falls Canaries baseball field. Then REACH moved to a location on Minnesota Avenue and then to the basement of Canfield Business Interiors downtown.
REACH eventually outgrown the space and moved to its current location at 2101 West 41st Street, Suite 23, on the south side of Western Mall by Scheels in 2018.
âWe passed (that) space about three years ago,â Carda said. “(But) we’re going to stick around for a little while.”
The location is still conducive to people who donate books, is close to the highway, easier to navigate than downtown, parking is adequate, a bus stop is nearby, and the store is within walking distance. many customers, Carda said.
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As Sioux Falls becomes more of a ‘melting pot’ and more of a hotbed for immigrants and refugees, Carda said REACH has also started working with the community on language acquisition in addition to literacy over the years. last years.
âWe believe that reading and literacy are fair and that it should be something everyone should be allowed to do,â she said.
The reading leads to “engaged citizens, people who participate in your community and in a much more fulfilling way, and can be a part of this whole agenda,” she said.
A “second home”
Carda works full time as an Executive Director with her duties of fundraising, bookstore management, donor discussion, board management, program coordination assistance, tutors and volunteers, and more. Three part-time employees and over 65 volunteers also contribute to his efforts at REACH.
Some volunteers, like Sandy Lauer and Judy Abbas, are retired librarians and former educators. Abbas calls REACH his “second home”.
REACH receives up to 100,000 book donations each year, Carda estimates. She says the busiest donation days are Saturdays and Mondays, likely because people spend time cleaning their homes on the weekends, or just finished a good book they want to share. .
While 100,000 book donations seem like a lot, Carda said the organization has never turned down a donation. And she estimates that REACH has donated more than 20,000 of these books each year.
âOne of the reasons the bookstore has been so successful is that there is still this inherent need to learn and read,â she said.
Harry Potter birthdays, bad poetry and more
Book marathons, ‘bad poetry’ readings and Harry Potter birthday parties are some of the unique events Carda helps organize at REACH.
People could participate in a 12-hour Zoom read-a-thon one day during the pandemic and watch other people read.
During âbad poetryâ readings, people could come in and read bad poetry that they wrote, something they wrote when they were younger, or something that they thought was a terrible poem. One participant read all of their poems like some bad character, Carda said.
And Harry Potter birthday parties are for celebrating the character’s birthday. People can cosplay as a character or come as-is. And there is also no age limit for the festivities.
Carda remembers a year she became Dolores Umbridge and another year of Bellatrix Lestrange. She’s been acting “really mean” all day as Bellatrix. The next REACH Harry Potter birthday party is scheduled for July 28.
REACH also offers a âBEE a Readerâ program, which pairs volunteers with emerging readers on Zoom. It provides cohesive and positive interactions to students with a reliable role model that works to build their confidence in reading.
This program ran on Zoom for 12 weeks, for 20 minutes every Friday during the COVID-19 pandemic. Carda said she plans to relaunch the BEE program at Annie Sullivan Elementary School in January next year for second graders.
The organization also offers teacher grants to provide readers of all ages with engaging, relevant, and high-quality books.
To get involved, Carda says people can buy books, volunteer, shop online at reachliteracy.org, donate books, or donate directly to REACH.
Other nonprofits seeking funding are encouraged to participate in the A Community Thrives program here.