I hadn't seen Shirley in years when we crossed paths at the African American
Health Expo 2013, at my alma mater Pittsburg High School. I was pleasantly
surprised to see Shirley at this venue and was intrigued by her program.
Shirley and I have a history, as we are both former County employees of
Employment and Human Services Department and now retirees. Shirley was
actually my Manager for several years and my mentor for many years prior to
her retirement and then for some time after retirement.
On this bright, warm, summer day, Shirley was standing in a booth in front of
a table filled with books. After exchanging pleasantries and hugs, Shirley
began to share the work she was doing with a non-profit, providing free books
to low income children. We exchanged contact information and subsequently
met for lunch. Shirley shared more information about the program and we
discussed the study, "The 30 Million Word Gap". I was simultaneously
appalled and saddened by the results of this study.
After thoroughly reading this study, I was convinced that bridging "the gap"
was not just what I wanted to do but what I needed to do. The enormity of the
problem has become personal to me and I am committed to doing all that I can
to impact this disparity. I observe, live, and experience the results of
this problem daily, and I am excited about the possibilities of READ which
gives me hope for our current and future generations. The passion for the
work that we do, the importance of the message and the people that we have
yet to reach, is the impetus behind REadingADvantage and the reason for my