About Read Aloud America

For over 30 years, we’ve been on a mission to help families discover the joy of reading aloud.

Our Mission

Through the fun of reading and being read-to, Read Aloud America promotes literacy, bonds families, and builds communities of lifetime readers.

Our Values

Since 1995, Read Aloud America has been committed to promoting a the joy of reading, strengthening families, and helping communities thrive. We envision a nation filled with families of lifetime readers. Our mission is rooted in six core values. 

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Family

Believing that a love of reading is rooted in a love of family, RAA’s programs strengthen family bonds through reading aloud.

School

RAA is committed to partnering with schools. We assist their efforts to build and maintain strong bridges between the home and school.

Community

RAA enhances community engagement through “micro” events. This increases access to read-aloud resources for all.

Innovation

Avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach, we continually develop new, creative ways to engage families in the joy of reading aloud.

Inspiration

RAA is committed to engaging parents and children in enjoyable, pressure-free programs that inspire a love of reading.

Education

RAA connects parents and schools to resources that assist their own efforts to cultivate reading friendly homes and classrooms.

Our Story

In 1985, Read Aloud America’s Founder, Jed Gaines, read the Commission on Reading’s report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. This report famously concluded,  “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
 
Having struggled with “learning differences” and severe dyslexia as a child, Jed felt deeply that reading aloud could have been a solution to support his growth. So, he decided to do something that would improve the futures of children everywhere.
 
This realization changed the trajectory of Jed’s life, defining a sense of purpose that would eventually impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
 
He would inspire the desire to read in parents and children.
 
When children want to read, he believed, they will experience all of the benefits that come with it. And, our nation will be fueled by families of lifetime readers. What followed laid the groundwork of Read Aloud America.
1995
Inception & Power Lunch Program

Jed organized a "power lunch" program at Kahamanu Elementary School on Oahu. At-risk students were paired with volunteer readers in school. This small but successful program inspired future changes.

1997
Creation of the Read Aloud Program

Alongside Jim Harstad, English Dept. Chair at the Univ. of Hawaii Laboratory School, and Marion Coste, children's book author and former Univ. of Hawaii instructor, Jed created an innovative approach to inspiring the joy of reading.

1999
Inaugural RAP Program

Held at Barber's Point Elementary School, the Read Aloud Program (RAP), was officially launched. Rooted in the philosophy of building readers through the joy of reading, each RAP session drew an average of 200 parents and children.

2000
RAP Builds Momentum

In only the first two full years, RAP served over 15,000 adults and children. More and more schools requested to host RAP, driving state leaders to consider funding the program. The energy was palpable!

2006
State of Hawaii Provides Multi-Million Dollar Grant

Recognizing RAP's innovation and impact, the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services began a multi-year, multi-million dollar grant to increase RAP's reach across the state.

2008
Reach Expands and Diversifies

Read Aloud America became fully operational, with offices across the state. Multiple local outreach programs also began: read alouds at libraries and Whole Foods, production of annual reading list, parent presentations, and more.

2020
Persistence through COVID

The pandemic shut down the widely popular RAP program and placed limitations on its immediate future. RAA's staff connected with communities through video read-alouds, downloadable resources, and "micro" RAP presentations.

2023
Evolution

Read Aloud America invests in strategies to expand its mission nationwide. By enhancing our digital presence, we're enabling families nationwide to access high-quality resources and guidance. Plans to release a RAP Toolkit are in motion.

What We Do

Read Aloud America’s signature program is the Read Aloud Program (RAP), a school-based evening program that bonds families and school communities through the joy of reading. Since 1999, Hawaii-based elementary and middle schools have hosted RAP nearly 200 times, drawing over 350,000 adults and children.
 
Until 2020, RAA operated only in Hawaii, providing RAP, library read-alouds, parent trainings, and micro-events with book giveaways. In the wake of the pandemic, RAA adapted to reach parents and teachers nationwide. Now, you can explore RAA’s archive of treasured, time-tested resources, download guides to build a reading-friendly home, and access regular support through free subscriptions. Plus, a “RAP toolkit” will soon be available.

Leadership

Jed Gaines

Founder

Jed founded Read Aloud America in 1995. A former businessman, Jed has inspired thousands of parents and children to make reading aloud a central focus of family life – and reap the rewards. Under his leadership, RAA and the Read Aloud Program (RAP) became the largest and most highly sought-after family reading program in the state.

Larry Laird

Operations Director

Larry is a former teacher, school principal and director of human resources for a large school district in the Bay Area. With a commitment to service, Larry is an active Rotarian, and has served as President for his local Rotary Club. He was the first Maui Program Coordinator in 2009, and helped expand the program across the island.

Joanne Laird

Program Director

Joanne is a retired teacher and school administrator from districts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Developing educational curricula is a passion, and she is an active volunteer. Joanne has been President and Assistant District Governor of Rotary Clubs on Maui. She is also a Literacy Coach and the “Library Lady” at Kihei Elementary School.

Natalie Hayek

Director of Development

Natalie is a professional writer with extensive experience in nonprofit leadership, fundraising, and development. A native of  St. Louis, Missouri, Natalie now lives and works around the globe as an Air Force spouse. She is an active volunteer, mother of two children, and co-founder of Spicy Lemon Marketing.

Samanta Shebelut

Director of Digital Strategies

Samanta has over 15 years experience helping businesses leverage data-driven marketing strategies. Originally from Murcia, Spain, she is now an Air Force spouse, working around the world. The co-founder of Spicy Lemon Marketing, Samanta is an expert in SEO, web design, and data analytics.

Read Aloud America in the News

Over the years, Read Aloud America has enjoyed a lot of newsworthy moments, which put a spotlight on the joy of building families of lifetime readers.
 
Explore Read Aloud America’s media presence here.
January 7, 2024
December 28, 2017
Literacy-programs-help-disadvantaged-children-thrive--views-and-voices
October 28, 2015
January 2, 2015
June 25, 2014
December 28, 2012
November 8, 2012
August 23, 2012
January 27, 2012
December 4, 2011
April 30, 2009

Endorsements

We are grateful for the overwhelmingly positive responses to our mission and the Read Aloud Program. Numerous school principals, community advocates, and industry leaders have endorsed Read Aloud America. Explore their letters here.
Jim Trealese, author of The Read Aloud Handbook
Richard Burns, State Librarian Hawaii State Public Library
Kris Kosa-Correia, Principal Waikoloa Elementary & Middle School
Lydia Trinidad, Principal Kualapu’u Public Conversion Charter School
Ed Oshiro, Principal Aiea Elementary School

Sponsors

Since 1995, we’ve been grateful for the support of small businesses, local companies, and large corporations. This wide community of supporters has made the gears turn at Read Aloud America! We extend our heartfelt thanks to these sponsors, whose commitment to building families of lifetime readers has transformed communities for the better. Below is a list of sponsors who have supported Read Aloud America in the past 25 years.

For the Love of Reading

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