MySweetWishList: Readers 2 Leaders

Norma Nelson*

According to Readers 2 Leaders Executive Director Norma Nelson,

“My holiday wish is for all third graders in Dallas County to receive the early literacy skills they need to succeed! I’d like to introduce you to three Readers 2 Leaders students: Catalina, Fernanda and Alaina go to different schools, but they have something in common: they all dream of helping others in the healthcare field. Maybe they will become doctors, nurses, or medical researchers! Like all kids, they have big dreams.

“The road from career dress up day at Readers 2 Leaders’ Summer Camp to advanced medical training will be long no matter what, but together we can make it smoother. We know that 2 out of 3 economically disadvantaged children are not reading on grade level by 4th grade, and that makes them six times less likely to graduate from high school, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Imagine if only one of the sweet girls in this photo made it to college! We can’t let that happen.

“At Readers 2 Leaders, children get help learning to read on grade level so they are prepared for the challenges they face on the way to fulfilling their dreams. At R2L, we know that literacy isn’t the only thing kids need to make things go right, but it’s just about the first thing that must! When you support Readers 2 Leaders, you’re helping literacy go right for kids.

Readers 2 Leaders*

“Also, students in Readers 2 Leaders’ programs are making great progress! They gain an average of a year and a half of reading skills in just one year, and 94% of this year’s summer campers did not experience the “summer slide”– in fact, they gained 3.5 months of skills!

“I hope that you will consider donating to Readers 2 Leaders this holiday season.

Catalina, Fernanda and Alaina*

“Your support helps children like Catalina, Fernanda and Alaina get the early literacy skills they desperately need. You can connect with Readers 2 Leaders by donating, attending a tour or volunteering to read with a child in our program. Thank you for helping children in our community achieve their dreams!”

– By Norma Nelson, Readers 2 Leaders Executive Director

* Photo provided by Readers 2 Leaders

At Mary McDermott Cook’s House, Readers 2 Leaders Celebrates Five Years

Philanthropist and community activist Fran Tynan is on the board of Readers 2 Leaders, a nonprofit whose mission is to develop and grow the reading skills of children in West Dallas. She’s also a neighbor of Mary McDermott Cook. So, thanks to Fran’s persuasive skills, Mary’s stunning, glass-and-wood home high above the Belmont Hotel in West Dallas was the setting for Readers 2 Leaders’ fifth anniversary party on Thursday, October 13.

“We’re about improving literacy in West Dallas,” explained Norma Nelson, the group’s executive director, as about 65 guests sipped drinks and munched hors d’oeuvres and admired the stunning views from Mary’s living room. “In 2015 we served 420 kids and 575 families,” Norma added, with initiatives including a core tutoring program called Team Read. It targets elementary-age students in West Dallas during regular school hours, after school, and during the summer months.

Not far away from Norma, attorney Ted Schweinfurth was chatting with friends. Schweinfurth, a partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP, founded Readers 2 Leaders and chairs its board of directors. (Ted also had a big hand in founding the VMLC nonprofit.) He proudly noted the progress Readers 2 Leaders has made, including gaining some funding from the Dallas Independent School District and just being selected as a three-year Community Impact grant recipient of funds from the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

Later, as guests including Janet Horton, Giles Davidson, Christina Hanger, and Daniel Waldmann looked on, Norma and Ted told the crowd how far Readers 2 Leaders had come in five years. It’s all thanks to the group’s “meticulous approach that moves the kids forward,” said Norma. Added Ted: “We have made an impact, even if we’ve only scratched the surface.”

There was also praise for Fran, who after all had made the party happen at Mary Cook’s house. “Fran Tynan’s gotten me into more ******* things than I can mention,” Mary jokingly told the crowd. Then came a shout: “Yay, Fran!”   

MySweet2016Goals: Norma Nelson

According to Readers 2 Leaders Executive Director Norma Nelson,

This month, I have had the tremendous blessing (and honor!) of being named Readers 2 Leaders’ first Executive Director!

“Readers 2 Leaders is a non-profit organization founded in 2010, whose mission is to develop and grow the reading skills of children in West Dallas ages 3-10 so that they succeed in school, graduate and leave school prepared to live productive lives. We offer in-school reading tutoring, a community lending library, high quality after-school programs and parent education centered on early literacy.

“In serving R2L as its first employee as well as our first Program Director, it has been amazing to see the growth of our programs and the impact we have had on West Dallas children. This year we are serving 240 children at six program sites (including five DISD schools) and our staff has grown to 14 total. Last year, the average student accelerated their reading level by 150%!

“Additionally, R2L partners with over 100 community volunteers who help out by reading with a child just one day a week for 30 minutes.

“My goals for 2016 are simple: to never lose sight of our mission, to humbly serve the West Dallas community and to get the word out in our community about the children in West Dallas who need our help! I am excited to take on this new role and continue to bring early literacy programs to West Dallas.

“For more information on Readers 2 Leaders, please visit us on the web at: www.readers2leaders.org.”