Molly Smithwick

Fundraising Coordinator, Read Better Be Better

Winner of YNPN LINK 2020

Q: Which cause did you pitch at LINK?

A: Read Better Be Better’s mission is to connect young readers and youth leaders to inspire a love of literacy and learning. Our kiddos, either in their home or at school, partner together to read, talk about, and learn to love books. In my pitch, I proposed that “when you read with someone you love, you learn to love to read” and that this newfound love is deeply connecting.

Q: What has the $1,000 prize done for your community and your organization?

A: Unrestricted funds like the LINK prize allowed RBBB to continue serving our mission. Right now, students are struggling with devastating learning losses caused by already existing inequities that are further exacerbated by the pandemic. Improving reading comprehension skills is something that helps students in every area of their education and life, which ultimately helps improve the health and happiness of communities. Winning LINK helped ensure we can deliver our program to any student and family interested. “School has been hard this year and Read Better Be Better gave my children a fun way to learn and spend time together. Best of all they both improved in reading comprehension and I’ve seen a huge improvement in their relationship,” one caregiver told us. Comments like this were seen across the board, and we thank YNPN, LINK, and all in attendance for helping make this possible.

Q: Do you have personal stories or statistics about your project you would like to share with us?

A: Currently, over 400 students participated in our RBBB At Home program, and when I say students I actually mean families. Since our program is taking place in the home, the family as a whole are connecting through reading. There is something profoundly meaningful when shifts like reading improvement happen within the home, with caregivers and children together. We heard stories of families gathering around the rocking chair while their partner siblings read and discuss books, caregivers discovering their child needed glasses, and caregivers hearing their child, whom they thought mute, read for the very first time during an RBBB session. In total, partners read for over 700 hours, and 87% of our young Readers told us that they understand what they are reading more now.

Q: What was your favorite part of participating in and preparing for LINK?

A: For me, nothing is more satisfying than throwing myself in an uncharted challenge. LINK shifted because of COVID, but I was still dedicated to giving it my all. I thought a lot about what I wanted to say, and then one day at the park with my daughter, I grabbed her notebook and pen and scribbled down what, for the most part, would be my pitch. Then I fine tuned and rehearsed and just became more confident. I even practiced at an open mic. Then we recorded and that also felt amazing and made me excited to start inviting people to LINK, people who later told me it was one of their favorite events during COVID. It was just so nice to have something I was proud of and work toward. I also made a good friend out of the experience, and had a really enjoyable virtual after party with coworkers. I meant every word I said in my pitch, and it felt good fine tuning my thoughts into words.

Q: What one piece of advice would you offer someone who wants to apply?