HISTORY: Ready Readers was founded in 1997 by Pat Simons and three other St. Louisans who aimed to help prevent reading problems in children from low-income areas. The program became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 1999.

COMMUNITY IMPACT: Ready Readers annually reaches 7,800 preschoolers in 491 classrooms from 132 early childhood centers in the St. Louis area. The 550 volunteers also distributed 53,000 new books to children last year. The program hopes to reach 8,500 children and distribute more than 57,000 books during this school year.

MISSION: Ready Readers inspires preschool-age children from low-income communities to become readers by reading aloud to them, increasing their exposure to quality books, and providing reading-related activities.

The nonprofit organization focuses on education as the key to ending the cycle of poverty—only 4 percent of American adults with strong literacy skills are poor. Every week, trained volunteers read high-quality books to classrooms of preschoolers, and then engage them with reading-related activities. Those 30 minutes a week help to stimulate the development of early literacy skills. Six times a year and once during the summer, the children also receive new books to take home.

WHAT/WHEN/WHERE: Second Annual Fall Fundraiser Saturday, Oct. 6, at the home of Lenore and Edwin Pepper The fundraiser will feature a concert by award-winning vocalist, Brian Owens. For more information or to receive an invitation, contact Ready Readers executive director Lisa Greening at 564-8070 or lisa@readyreaders.org.

In addition, the organization’s biggest fundraiser is actually a ‘non-event.’ Supporters take on the responsibility of mailing fun invitations requesting contributions from family, friends and colleagues. Ready Readers asks invitees to make a donation, then stay home and read a book. With no actual event, almost every dollar raised goes directly to the program. The next non-event will be held in 2013.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED: To donate or volunteer, call 564-8070 or visit readyreaders.org.

ON THE BOARD: Lynn Yearwood

Lynn Yearwood thought she just had found a kindred spirit when she sat down next to fellow book-carrying bus rider Sandy Jaffe on the way to Jefferson City. But as Jaffe, an early board member of Ready Readers, began detailing the work of the organization, the bus trip turned into a gateway to the perfect opportunity for Yearwood. “My background was in education before I went into business, so I have a love of reading; and my husband was a librarian, so there was a natural affinity there.”

Today, Yearwood is entering her fifth year of involvement with Ready Readers and her second year as board president. Yearwood is focused on reaching as many children as possible through the reading program, with a future target of 10,000 young readers as the organization looks to expand its reach into Illinois.

While Yearwood concentrates on fundraising and organizational and staff development, she enjoys witnessing the preschoolers interact with the volunteer readers, which include her husband. From musicians who perform alongside the words on the page, to actors who bring books to life, Yearwood sees how enthralled the children become with the world of reading. “These children face so many obstacles, but we believe that literacy is the key to success in school, work and life. It’s phenomenal to see how eager they are for these opportunities.”