Collect and distribute new and used books to kids in struggling areas, promoting literacy and helping the environment by promoting reuse.
We are read.repeat.! I'm Chase Hartman (r) and this is my best friend Vance Tomasi! We started this project 3 years ago with one simple goal. We wanted to get books to kids who didn't own any! Since then, we've collected and donated over 110,000 books, raised $33,000 to fund literacy and distributed books to over 200 locations in all 50 states. We teamed up with our local school system and have donated 60,000 books to 65 schools and helped over 25,000 kids! Not bad for 8th graders!
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Date You Started Your Project Started
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
We started "read.repeat." after learning that only 1 out of every 300 kids who live in struggling areas actually own their own books, and kids who own books do better in school, so the challenge is that we need to get more books into the hands of kids!
Studies show kids who are proficient in reading by 3rd grade have a higher graduation rate and are less likely to succumb to drugs or teen pregnancy. Reading sets you up for success!
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Since starting “read.repeat” with my friend 3 years ago, we've volunteered over 1000 hours, collected 110,000 books and distributed them to 200 locations in 50 states, and helped raise $33,000 to support literacy in the Tampa area. We teamed up with Hillsborough County Public Schools and delivered 60,000 books to 65 schools, helping 25,000 kids with the resources they need to build a strong educational foundation. After visiting many schools with a majority of minorities, I wrote a grant request and fund-raised to purchase books-with-diversity and distribute hundreds of them to Title 1 Schools so kids could relate to the books.
My most rewarding experience was meeting the teachers at Sheehy Elementary School. In 2017, Sheehy’s classrooms lost most of their contents in a flood. We heard the teachers needed books, so the day before school started we delivered more than 2000. We set up rows of tables and it was so exciting to watch the teachers comment on our delivery. One teacher was so overjoyed when she said how many times she had used her own money to buy books and supplies and how thankful she was for our efforts. We need more books and funding to reach more kids!
3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
I started volunteering in first grade as a Cub Scout and in National Elementary Honor Society. Although the projects were small, I realized kids can still make a difference. The one that had the most impact on me was a book drive NEHS ran for Metropolitan Ministries. I learned some kids in our county didn’t own books and I wanted to do more! I found a book company willing to give away used books and so we started “read.repeat”, launched several book collections in my clubs, sports teams and martial arts studio. At first is was surprising how many books we were collecting and how quickly we outgrew the garage. Now, I’ve met thousands of kids who might not otherwise own books. They get so excited to sift through the piles and find the perfect one! I also know I'm helping the environment! By promoting reuse we estimate we saved 3200 trees- that's a forest!
4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”
Changing Lives, One books at a Time!
We were able to find funding to purchase $25,000 new books for 5000 Summer Reading Campers who were struggling 3rd graders. The books went to 30 locations and kids got to pick out a lot of books to keep!
Donating $5000 to the Hillsborough County Literacy Board so they coud buy books with diversity featuring children from many different races.
Our storage unit gets packed with donations!
Classroom libraries were destroyed by a flood at Sheehy Elementary School so the day before school started in August 2017 we delivered 2000 books. We set up tables and helped the teachers pick out books for their classroom libraries. They all commented on how it was so hard to create their libraries on limited funds and how sad they were when it was lost. They couldn't believe 2 kids would make a difference like this!
Our storage unit is always filled with books we collect and we are always sorting. In Florida it can be brutal in the sun and heat but we are always laughing! We love what we do!
Forest Lakes wanted books for Summer Reading packs so we collected and donated several thousand!
6000 books go to James Elementary School the day before school started in August, 2018. James needed books for Classroom Libraries and incentives for the kids!
350 Kids at Cleveland Elementary School receive books with diversity.
We collected and donated 3000 used books and 600 new books-with-diversity we purchased through a grant and fundraising to kids at Cleveland Elementary School in Tampa so they would own books to read over the summer. Cleveland is made up of 94% minorities and it was important to us for the kids to see themselves in the books they read.
5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
My partner, Vance, was inspired by his little brother who was struggling to read in the 3rd grade. Vance knew kids do better in school when they own books but we've met hundreds of kids who don't. We applied for funding to purchase new books for the Hillsborough County Summer Reading Camp for 3rd graders. You see, kids who are good at reading by 3rd grade have a higher rate of graduation and are less likely to succumb to drugs and alcohol. We were awarded $25,000 to purchase 25,000 books for all the Summer Reading Campers. We set up distributions at 30 locations and 5000 kids picked out books of their own. Test scores went up for the campers and we know they loved the books!
We typically collect used books from friends, clubs, scout troops and libraries but in this case we wanted to purchase new high-interest books so the kids would really enjoy the content.
6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
We started out thinking it was important to just get books in the hands of kids in need. But over the past 3 years we've visited dozens of school and met thousands of kids. Our main mission hasn't changed but we have shifted some focus. When funding is available we know we must purchase high-interest books-with-diversity so kids can see themselves in the characters. I've also begun realizing a need for dual language books. I met a girl at our last delivery who spoke little English. I handed her a booked called "Sophia Martinez" with Spanish words and she lit up! Literacy is confidence!
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Our first book delivery, three years ago, was impactful. We were 5th graders hoping to help other elementary school kids. We met a little girl who was so excited to get a book to own she held it close to her chest and said "I will love it, read it and keep it forever." We haven't forgotten her. Since that delivery we've now donated 110,000 books in all 50 states. We helped a school devastated by a flood and another destroyed by a fire. We've stocked classroom libraries and impacted over 25,000 kids in our county. When used books wouldn't be enough we applied for grants, awards and raised funds to purchase new books. We are now just 8th graders but we have a strong relationship with our Public School Administration and we are known throughout the county as the #boyswithbooks. Teachers and Media Specialists know they can contact us and get what they need for their kids.
8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
We have a strong partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools. We are hoping to expand our desire to place more dual-language books in several schools in our county which have a 75% or higher population of Hispanic kids. 35% of our county schools are Hispanic. 21% of the families with kids in our county speak Spanish as their first language. If we expect kids to be proficient in reading by 3rd grade in order to have a more successful future, we need to give them more tools to succeed.
We are also constantly working on ways to continue to supply schools with a diverse demographic with more books-with-diversity. We began exploring this need at the beginning of the year and we know we must continue this.
9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?
10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations less than $100
Donations between $100-$1k
Donations between $1k-$5k
Donations over $10k
How did you hear about this challenge?