Credit: Noah Graham for Eat. Learn. Play.
Eat. Learn. Play,. an organization committed to fighting childhood hunger, ensuring access to education, and enabling active lifestyles, has launched its latest initiative, Little Town Libraries, to improve literacy rates in Oakland, California.
Founders Stephen Curry, a three-time NBA champion and two-time MVP, and his wife Ayesha Curry, entrepreneur, host, and two-time The New York Times best-selling author, alongside their team will construct 150 new Little Town Libraries around the city of Oakland. These locations will meet kids and families right where they are while fostering a passion for reading by gifting free books.
“We are always looking for innovative and creative ways to attack our issue pillars, and this engaging initiative aims to not only foster a culture of literacy but bring fun and vibrant experiences to yards and street corners, too,” said Stephen and Ayesha Curry.
The first Little Town Library was unveiled in person at Franklin Elementary School in partnership with CarMax Foundation and Kaboom. The school serves culturally, racially, and linguistically diverse students preparing them for a lifetime of success. Franklin has been a special school that the Curry’s and their foundation have partnered with as they have also renovated a basketball court, created a garden, and given artwork by the Illuminaries to the school.
CEO Chris Helfrich recently joined “Listen In With KNN” executive producer and host Kelsey Nicole Nelson on episode 207 of “Listen In With KNN” where he teased this upcoming project.
While the organization was searching for a specific educational space to work in, Helfrich and the Curry’s found a startling statistic. “3rd-grade reading levels, we learned, are a leading indicator of future academic success, career success, and much more depressing is the fact that we’ve learned that prison systems in the U.S. use 3rd-grade reading levels as indicators of future inmate populations as they try to plan how to build jails,” said Helfrich in his conversation with Nelson earlier this year.
Also while researching, they also found that literacy, in general, is a crisis in Oakland. Only 15.4% of Black and 12.5% of Latino/a elementary school students in Oakland are reading at grade level. This comes at a time when many students across the country have been learning from home and experts are citing learning loss.
“Reading is a crucial building block to academic success and unlocking lifelong opportunities, which is why we’ve made early literacy the focus of our LEARN pillar,” said Stephen and Ayesha Curry.
The initiative is inspired by and in partnership with LittleFreeLibrary.org which has created nearly 150,000 Little Free Libraries internationally. According to the press release, “The Little Free Library movement is a book-sharing concept that supports communities in creating fun, tiny libraries in front yards of homes and businesses for families to share books and develop their children’s passion for reading.”
Another way Eat. Learn. Play. is working towards bridging the reading gap is through their Eat. Learn. Play. Bus which features a free mobile bookstore along with fresh restaurants meals and produce, and a basketball hoop.