Founder & Executive Director, The Reading Partnership
The Reading Partnership is a Black-led organization that offers free, evidence-based literacy initiatives that promote a love of reading in the communities that need them most, with a special focus on Black and racialized children and families.
Established in 2011 by Founder and Executive Director Camesha Cox, The Reading Partnership has been shifting the literacy landscape in low-income, high-potential communities in the Greater Toronto Area for over a decade. Its vision is for every child in every community to have access to the support they need to learn to write and read and love it so they can build brighter futures for themselves and succeed in school, work, and life.
The Reading Partnership’s mission is to create and deliver literacy-focused programs and resources that empower children and their families to reach their full potential. The organization helps young authors write and publish the stories they want to tell, hosts virtual book clubs that feature stories by diverse authors, helps families build their home libraries with free books, and offers a learning series and educational tools that help parents and caregivers teach their kids to read. As a recipient of the TD Ready Challenge, The Reading Partnership will be scaling its Reading Partnership for Parents (RPP) program nationally to reach even more families across Canada.
Understanding and serving Black communities
The Reading Partnership has helped over 400 parents and caregivers develop the patience, confidence, and understanding of a play-based approach to teaching their children aged four to six to read. This includes over 200 Black families served through Reading Partnership for Black Parents (RPBP) — a specialized version of the original program, designed specifically, intentionally, and exclusively to benefit Black children and caregivers since 2018. RPBP offers Black-only participation and all Black facilitators, and creates a safe space for Black families to come together and learn.
“It was enriching to participate with all Black facilitators and caregivers because my daughter and I could see ourselves represented in the other participants,” shares one RPBP parent. “There was a greater level of comfort in sharing relatable experiences and, most importantly, my daughter was able to see other children who look like her going on a similar journey of learning how to read.”
In the literacy space across Canada, there’s a need for increased leadership that’s reflective of Black communities to ensure that the unique needs of Black children and families are recognized and understood.
Diverse learning resources
A long-standing need is books and learning tools that are reflective of Black and racialized children and families. According to a 2018 infographic by David Huyck and Sarah Park Dahlen, only 10 per cent of children’s books depict Black characters, with even lower percentages for Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous characters — compared to 27 per cent depicting animals/other and 50 per cent depicting white characters. The Reading Partnership is changing this reality for children across Canada.
The organization’s coveted Literacy Kit or Lit Kit is a one-stop shop of educational tools that promote early literacy and diversity. In every Lit Kit you’ll find letter sound cards, sight word cards, and the Tiny Tales series — 21 separate books with colourful illustrations and big, bold, decodable text that feature Black and diverse characters and their stories, promoting equality, justice, and kindness.
Families participating in RPP and RPBP receive a free Lit Kit to use in the program and at home — it’s theirs to keep and pass on. The Reading Partnership is committed to giving more and more families the opportunity and experience of seeing themselves reflected in the stories that are shaping their children’s imagination, confidence, and literacy development.
Through its expanding programs, initiatives, and resources, The Reading Partnership is building community and creating a sense of belonging for children and families who often feel excluded and forgotten.
“One thing that I noticed that made me happy and proud was the representation — seeing the videos and seeing individuals of all races and abilities,” says one RPP parent. “There was an animation of an individual in a wheelchair. It just warmed my heart to see that representation. I’m really proud of and engaged with the program. I was very overwhelmed when I got the Lit Kit. At first, I was like, ‘I can’t do this, I’m not an educator. How am I going to set my son up for success?’ But the first week was just perfect. It’s the right amount of information, you feel very supported, and you know what you’re doing. I just really appreciate it and I’m thankful.”
To support this important work, visit readingpartnership.com/donate, visit readingpartnership.com to sign up for the mailing list, and follow The Reading Partnership on social media (@TRPnow).