A new reading program is aimed at helping hundreds of elementary school students across the nation and in Las Vegas learn how to read.
Leaders of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and nonprofit Room to Read launched Hands-On-Books on Jan. 2 at Booker Elementary School. The audience included more than two dozen Clark County School District students and the panel of presenters included actor John Marshall Jones.
About 8,000 books will be donated nationwide to 24 schools, and each book cost about $1, said Room to Read CEO Geetha Murali. Fraternity undergraduate students at UNLV and the other schools volunteer to read to underprivileged students as part of the program.
The goal is to reach 700 students between the launch date and April. After that, the organizations hope to expand its reach to 1,000 students by the fall.
“In the past, literacy has predominantly been used as a tool for social exclusion and oppression — especially in the United States,” said Evan Jackson Jr. with Kappa Alpha Psi, a junior at Brown University in Rhode Island. “The work that Room to Read is doing is turning what has been used as a tool for oppression into a tool for opportunity.”
“I’m so excited to be able to work. To be able to go into these schools, to read with these children, actually make a difference and show these students that regardless of your socioeconomic status, your ethnicity, your background, that you do have an opportunity to learn and you do have an opportunity to attend school.”
Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, thanked the program’s organizers.
“Education is so vitally important to all of us,” he said. “We thank you so very much to have the vision to realize that it’s up to us as we think about each one, reach one. Each one, teach one.”
During the event, members of Kappa Alpha Psi — a predominantly African American fraternity — talked about the importance of youth being able to relate to the books they read.
“A lot of times children don’t get enough reading because when they open a book, it doesn’t relate to them,” Murali said following the event. The books donated are from South Africa and will give the students “a window into the lives of children there,” she said.
At the same time, the books will be relatable enough that African American students will be able to self-reflect, Murali added.
“The idea is to provide not only a reading experience but also have children in the United States connect with children in South Africa,” she said.
By the numbers
- 700: Number of students Room to Read and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity officials hope to reach students with the program through April
- 1,000: Number of students they hope to reach by fall
- 8,000: Number of books Room to Read will donate nationwide to 24 schools, including Booker Elementary
How to help
To donate to Room to Read, visit roomtoread.org/support-education.