Our mission is to provide learning opportunities and essential reading strategies to at-risk elementary students from families with limited financial resources, and at the same time develop high school student-athletes as role models and mentors.
By building a team of dedicated educators, student-athletes, and generous sponsors, we can provide high expectations, engaging books, and one-on-one support that will help struggling readers achieve both personal and academic growth.
Since 2003, we have worked in communities building partnerships, donating books, and evaluating the success of our program as we grow. We are now located in over thirty locations in the Virginia and Maryland, and have recently expanded to North Carolina and Florida, Memphis and Detroit.
From our founder Wendell Byrd
The Readers Are Leaders program offers a path to success for struggling elementary school readers by creating opportunities for growth and achievement. We target students who need a helping hand today so that they may become the responsible citizens, problem solvers, and leaders of tomorrow.
Coaches involve their student-athletes in this program to present opportunities to grow by reaching out to others. These athletes become role models and coaches, offer their friendship, patience, encouragement, and enthusiasm as they help struggling or unmotivated students move up the academic ladder.
Elementary school administrators join the program because they have a population of at-risk readers, who need an extra push to help them become successful. Once they see the personal and academic growth of their students, they invite us back year after year.
Our struggling readers usually respond well to focused, one-on-one mentoring. They see themselves as special because a high school student-athlete thinks reading is important and cares enough about them to help them improve. These students will often develop a more positive attitude about reading, more confidence in themselves, and a stronger sense of belonging in a community that cares.
We build a team that includes our generous sponsors and dedicated educators. It is the commitment, support, and enthusiasm of these sponsors, educators, and student-athletes that are responsible for the growth of our young readers and for the success that the program has achieved.
“I loved reading with my buddy and having him listen to me. It really helped me get into the books. I learned that some books don’t sound very good, or may not be your type, but you should give them a try. Chris helped me realize that.”
5th Grade Student
“The best thing that happened was that I got to read with a great partner. I liked to read with my partner he was so nice. Every day when we finished the book he would say you did an awesome job. That made me feel good.”
Erika, Elementary School Student
“My favorite thing about the program was seeing the smile on my kid's face every day when I would arrive. It was nice to see how excited she was to read that day. She made getting up early worth it. Her reading improvement was astounding.”
Travis, High School Baseball Student
“(Her) reading level grew tremendously as we noticed her enjoying reading vs. looking at it as a chore…. She was thrilled about getting to read with a high school student which made her feel very special. Jaylyn went from being behind on her reading level to reading on the same level as her classmates…. It really gave her the extra boost in confidence she needed.”
John and Crystal Cassell, parents
“It is often difficult for our at-risk students to connect with others, as they have experienced many disappointments at home, at school, and in the community. Your program gives both readers and mentors the opportunity to build positive peer relationships and self esteem. We then encourage them to broaden newly acquired social skills beyond the Readers Are Leaders program.”
Mitch Axman, Teacher/Coach
“The excitement about reading that Readers Are Leaders instills in our students and the relationships they build with their mentors make this program very successful in raising reading achievement for our struggling students.”
Cathy Podagrosi, Reading Specialist
“This program allowed for many of the players in my program to grow as they spent time with the elementary students. They were very aware of the positive impact they were making on the students, and little did they know the impact that the elementary students were having on them.”
Mark Bauer, Head High School Baseball Coach