Tell us about yourself.
I am Bruce Coffey Jr., the creator of Read to Them’s One School, One Book program and the overall Director of Programs at Read to Them. I am trained as a historian and also serve as a middle school history teacher at Sabot at Stony Point School. I believe in the transformative power of children’s literature and am ecstatic to be in a position to share my enthusiasm and that enabling power with families and schools across the country.
What is the focus of your work and the need you are addressing?
Schools and the nation have bemoaned poor reading scores and poor reading ability since I was in elementary school. In addition, schools are asked to do too much and cannot transform student’s lives and abilities without input from home. Read to Them’s programs aim to solve both problems – putting some responsibility for children’s education back in the home, but in an exciting rewarding way, allowing children, families and schools to experience and generate enthusiasm for reading children’s literature together.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
It’s rewarding for me to know that I can introduce books I am enthusiastic about (high quality children’s literature), not to a handful of friends or family, but to thousands of children and families across the country. It’s rewarding to hear and see the enthusiasm generated by our simple program in the pictures, videos, links, and testimonials they share. It’s rewarding to know we’ve discovered a simple solution that actually helps our education system in its monumental task. It’s rewarding to know that we can transform students’ lives and possibilities through the simple, sly, unlikely vehicle of a book.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishment in this position.
Growing from a half a dozen schools to over 1000 across the nation is our biggest accomplishment. It was challenging to do this as unfunded non-profit. We’ve managed to create a simple, flexible, affordable, easy to implement program that generates enthusiasm and is renewed by most schools every year. Managing our burgeoning list of client schools without benefit of large grants or sponsors has been our biggest challenge.
What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you?
We’re expanding the One District, One Book program – in which all the families in all the schools in an entire district read the same children’s novel at the same time. We’ll be doing that this year by expanding an across the state initiative we pioneered in Texas – Texas Reads One Book. We also plan to expand our auxiliary offerings to middle schools and high schools. And to make a special push to innovate and find ways to reach the underserved, least privileged or least capable families in our populations.
How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?
We’ve discovered that partnering – and especially partnering with partners of partners! – is a great way to build synergy and increase one’s reach and effectiveness. So we’d love to use ConnectVA to connect and partner with other organizations with overlapping missions and goals. We’d especially like to find ways of reaching families in some of Richmond’s struggling inner-city schools. We’ve been working at it – but with only marginal success.
Anything else you would like to share?
Our mission is to create a culture of literacy in every home. That may sound ambitious and it may sound like a mouthful. But it really is our ambition and we really believe – we see it every day – in the unique ability of a rich, children’s story to animate learners and families, to increase interest and ability in reading, and to make students’ and schools’ more effective. We recently moved our offices to the BookBindery on Broad St. Come say Hello!