Book Smarts

Read and Feed Equips Children to Become Capable, Confident Readers

For more than 10 years, hundreds of students across Wake County have gathered in small groups to eat, play and build their confidence in reading. And it’s all due to the vision of Jan Franz.

In the early 2000s, Jan volunteered as a tutor at Cary’s Northwoods Elementary School, where she discovered many children lacked the basic resources needed to become strong readers. In 2007, she quit her job, purchased an RV and converted it into a mobile classroom capable of traveling to neighborhoods and schools. She grabbed books from her attic, fixed sloppy joes to feed the eight children signed up for the program and pulled up to Penny Road Elementary.

Read and Feed was born.

Since then, Read and Feed has expanded to serve more than 600 children each year at 24 program sites across the Triangle.

“We partner with Wake County schools, who help us to identify kindergarten through fifth grade students who could benefit from Read and Feed, the majority of whom are from low-income households and reading below the benchmark,” explains Kati Mullan, Read and Feed’s executive director.

Kati served as a volunteer with the program, before becoming a program coordinator and then executive director in 2015. Jan, whose vision spurred it all, is still an active strategic partner and serves on the program’s board of directors.

“After receiving parent approval, our volunteers provide weekly one-hour tutoring sessions in the students' local neighborhoods. Each participant receives a well-balanced meal and leaves with a new book to read after every visit,” Kati says. “The children spend their first 10 minutes eating supper, then break into small groups, usually a one-to-one or two-to-one ratio, to work on literacy concepts and practice reading.”

The importance of identifying struggling readers early on is critical, Kati explains. Numerous studies have shown third grade reading proficiency is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success.

“Reading touches every part of a child’s academic journey,” Kati says. “Watching these kids build their self-esteem while nourishing them emotionally and physically is a privilege.”

Read and Feed: By the Numbers

24 program sites

2 mobile classrooms

600+ children served a year

500+ active volunteers

7,700 hours of tutoring a year

33,000+ books given to children annually

93% of parents report reading improvement in their children

78% of Read and Feed participants report being more confident in their reading skills

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