Books of all shapes and sizes fill the shelves in the RV. Once a week, excited elementary school students crowd into this “mobile classroom” to improve their reading skills, read new books and eat warm meals. Read and Feed, the charity that organizes these hourlong tutoring sessions, has a total of three mobile classrooms, has given out 25,000 books and teaches children throughout Wake County.
At the beginning of a session, children at most of the sites receive meals that the charity buys at reduced prices from local organizations and restaurants, mainly the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. Afterwards, tutors work with the children to teach them new words and reading strategies using activities, games, and flashcards.
Instruction is tailored to meet each student’s needs, age and reading level. Older students often have a book club where they discuss the books they read, while younger students work with tutors to develop basic reading skills. Children are selected for this program because they have difficulty reading at their grade level and may not have access to books at home. Tutors hope to “give these children the reading skills they need so they become lifelong learners and succeed in life,” said Executive Director Kati Mullan.
Read and Feed provides participants with books to take home. First-time participants are given a tote bag containing school supplies. The children are able to earn prizes, such as a doll or bouncy ball, if they read their book and complete a book log by the next session, bring back their tote bag, and are courteous and respectful to each other and the volunteers.
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Mullan suggests the following as donations for the holiday season: school supplies; new or almost new children’s books (especially books at the kindergarten and first-grade reading level); gas cards; gift cards to Sam’s Club, Walmart, or Dollar Tree; or 8 oz. bottles of water.
“Read and Feed welcomes volunteers – training is provided – who would like to help keep the RVs tidy and restocked weekly,” she added.
This year, the program has grown significantly, establishing a third mobile classroom and adding multiple program sites. Two more will be added in January for a total of 20 sites. Mullan said that the charity’s goals for the holiday season are to “increase community awareness, financial support, and [the] volunteer pool so that we can continue to bring our Feed the Reader Roadshow to the neighborhoods and children who need us the most.”
The program was founded by Jan Frantz in 2007. At the time of its founding, it had one site and eight participants. Currently, there are 18 sites and more than 450 students involved.
Mullan joined the program in May 2011. She has a background in business, but decided that she wanted “relationships with people instead of numbers,” she said. She recently was promoted from volunteer and program coordinator to executive director.
Board member and volunteer John Griswold runs a new site at St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church in Raleigh. The most memorable experience he has had so far, he said, was the first day of the program, when 30 “very enthusiastic” children showed up at the church.
The program has taught him that “there’s a definite need in the community” for young children to have greater access to literature. He would like to expand the program to include math tutoring and hopes that Read and Feed can be taken to the state or even national level.