Youth for Literacy

A Peacemaking Project by Ryan T.

What is the injustice we are solving?

Over 50% of our area's third graders are not proficient at reading. This has lead to an increase in gang violence and high school drop-out rates. To increase peace, we need to attack the root causes. In my area, illiteracy is a major contributing factor. By providing free books to others, we can tackle the problem early. We will show them the joy of reading and open up their options for the future.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of Illiteracy
we will address easy access to books
by creating free libraries within community areas

Our Project Plan:


  • Find one community location with at least 1000 people a year using it, and get permission to install a library.
  • Research stores and purchase at least two bookcases to install in a public location.
  • Gather at least 50 books for the location through donations and store purchases that cover adults, teens, and children.
  • Install the bookcase with the books at the location and place signage to increase traffic.

We will increase my / our compassion by...

Identifying local public locations that attract a wide audience of ages that might benefit from free books. This will help us become aware of hidden populations of people that need reading assistance. By speaking with them, we can determine the best way to provide them with resources to encourage reading.

How will you show courage?

We will show courage by approaching the management of local industries and asking them to use some of their space for this public service.

How will you collaborate with others?

We will reach out to the community to ask for used books to include in the public book share program. We will also collaborate with local teachers and libraries to determine the best books to include.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

If we have located a public location and begun the steps to get approval for bookcase placement, we are heading down the right path. In addition, if we reach out to the community and are able to receive at least 100 books to supply to the bookcases, this will indicate there is enough public support.

Key Steps

  • Talk with local teachers, librarians, and community leaders to determine the need for a book share program.
  • Research public locations with easy access where people of all ages that need the books gather. There also should not be other access to free books nearby, like a library or school.
  • Choose the locations where a book share system would best benefit the population and approach the management of these locations for approval of a book share program. Determine the approval steps involved, which may include pictures of the bookcases/books.
  • Conduct a book drive in the community to gather at least 100 books for all age groups. This will include announcing it and putting out collection bins.
  • Research and select bookcases that are sturdy and easy to access. Purchase or solicit a donation.
  • Place books in the bookcases (based upon teacher and librarian feedback) and include labels with age groups of the books, instructions for borrowing, and a title.
  • Bring the bookcase and books to the location.
  • Publicize the book share program in local press and newsletters to get people to use it.


How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

We completed deeper research to give us additional facts when we presented our solution to the various sites. Research has shown that the third grade is the most important year for students because it’s when they advance from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” A study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which focuses on improving the well-being of American children, showed that students who fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade are linked to ongoing difficulties in school and failure to graduate. With over 50% of the third graders in our community not proficient in reading, we knew that this wasn't just a problem today, but would cause increasing problems in the future as well. Over 73% of the Latinos, African Americans, and Pacific Islanders are not proficient in reading by third grade, causing a widening gap in achievement for these minorities in later years. We also delved into the deeper cause for the lack of literacy. Books in the home and access to free educational programs were some of the symptoms we identified. These symptoms, we further came to understand, stemmed from income levels. In our community, we have a high number of immigrants that can't work at their full potential yet because of language barriers and access to legal work. This causes them to accept jobs at lower paying wages than their qualifications. California is home to roughly 3 million children aged 5 and under, and the state has the highest child poverty rate in the country. We took a field trip to some of our lower income areas and noticed another thing - many of these families were putting up to 8 family members in a 1-bedroom apartment. We spoke with some children that lived in a garage. Not only did they need to search for some place to sleep, but their access to books and computers in the home was impossible. We now know that putting books in their homes will get them interested in reading, but to make a truly long-term impact, we also need to look at helping these families gain access to higher paying jobs, computers, and free educational services. There is a governor race in California now and we have joined the voices that are making the candidates aware of the cycle of poverty. We want all candidates to address the lack of free or subsidized preschool education and job availability so we can pull these children out of this cycle. We made a dent during this project in educating community leaders, making books available to over 1000 people a year, and focusing our attention on other causes of illiteracy.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

The positive change began as I was contacting various community locations to offer the book share program. Community leaders were not informed about the literacy crisis in our community (a location next to Silicon Valley and other high income neighborhoods). With 13% of Californians living below the poverty level, in our county where rents are extremely high, the estimate is over 1/3 of families cannot be self sufficient. Our group banded together and realized that we needed to encourage a voluntary community redistribution of the wealth so that the children of the low-income families have a chance to succeed in the future. We explained how successful our book drives in the past have been and how willing the community is to help. We received great support of our idea, leading us to plan to implement several more book share programs in other high volume areas of the community after our implementation of the Elks Lodge program. After implementation, we witnessed children putting down their phones and spending time at the book area picking out their books. Their excitement was quite evident, showing the parents that books were an excellent source of entertainment and education for their children, instead of electronic devices. We also provided books for adults so that the adults could lead by example.

How many people were impacted by your project?


Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

Elk's Lodge Members - 1000 Special Event Attendees (weddings, VA dinners, Armed Forces dinners, etc.) - 200 x 12 months = 2400 Regular Meetings (Boy Scouts, Board Meetings, Committee Meetings) - 150 Community Visitors - 425 Community Leaders Visited with program idea - 25 Total Impacted = 4000

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

Our group has been working on improving the literacy rates in the community since I set up the Youth for Literacy group 5 years ago. Since then we have conducted over 40 programs to educate and get youth inspired to read. For this project we did additional research to determine the areas most affected by poverty and which areas were addressed by other programs we have set up, or the library or school system has set up. The area with the Elks Lodge was an area noone has addressed before since it is away from city center with little public transportation. We put together a community map with services so we could see which areas needed the most help. In addition, we had a field trip into some areas of the city that usually are not seen. These are apartments and rental units in a largely Hispanic area where we could see the high concentration of renters per unit. We also conducted interviews with some local youth to see what their concerns were and how they felt it should be addressed. In addition to the free books, they requested access to free computers and the internet. We worked with the local library to help them set up a computer sharing system in the lowest income area. Although this was out of the scope of this project, our research showed us that this weakness needed to be addressed quickly so that kids could do their homework for school. These kids also talked about the need for quiet spaces to do their homework. When the local city council proposed cutting the library hours, I went to speak before the council to inform them of our research and tell them the importance of having quiet, safe places for children to read and do their schoolwork.

What did your team learn?

We learned that we needed to ensure all levels of an organization are on board because it only takes one person to delay a project. Even with my group maintaining the book share program, we still had to keep many people happy to get approval. We also learned that sometimes you have to be persistent to get something done. When the approval kept getting delayed, I set up the system while I was home on a weekend from college and told them I did this for them to try it out and give me feedback for changes. I let them know that we could take it down immediately if there was any problem. This forced them to give the project the attention it needed and it was adopted permanently after the first week since they saw the excitement of the members for the new program. Also, it gave them a chance to see the program and bookcases looked of good quality and would not deter from the look of their organization. Each project increases our communication skills as we work with leaders at all levels, both in the local government and within the organizations we are working with. This time I personally learned to coordinate my schedule with theirs even better, as I was out of town at school most of the time and had to fly home to implement changes. The additional information we gathered through our research for this project helped us design some additional programs for the future that will address the job gaps and computer problems.

What challenges did your team overcome?

Our team learned that no matter how quickly we want to implement a project that clearly is needed, sometimes we have to go through the politics of an organization. Even within the Elks, the Exalted Ruler could not make the decision. We presented to him and then it needed to be brought before several committees - to approve the program, determine where to have the permanent share program with facilities, go to the pool committee to have the summer traveling book share program approved, and maintenance to ensure the program would not be in the way. It was frustrating at times, but we developed patience in getting the approvals.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

While I am at school my group, Youth for Literacy, visits the Elks periodically to supply them with new books and organize their books to make it look nicer. We solicited advice from various Elks Lodge managers to ensure all their concerns were addressed. We specifically needed to work with the Elks Lodge pool committee to install the traveling share system in the pool area since their main community room was being renovated. Others we had spoken with about putting this system in their community location have noticed the success of the Elks program and come to us to set up programs at their locations. We plan to roll out at least 2 more programs this year.

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

Take it a step at a time and it won't seem so overwhelming. If you show your enthusiasm early on, many people will join you. Teamwork makes the project more fun and teaches others important lessons of working together and leadership. I especially believe that local community leaders are ready to support peacemaking projects if they are included and can see the passion we offer to make a change.

Our Updates:

Book Share Program Installation

Ryan T. 31 May 2018 18:16


Kelsey T.
9 March 2018 13:57

Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

This is a great project -- I love that you are specific about finding a public space that people actually use and making sure that you are putting this resource in an area where the people who really need it can access it. I think your compassion and collaboration plans are particularly strong and really appreciate that you are planning to speak to the people who need this resource to find the best ways to provide them with the resources. I think continuing to engage with them to find out ways to improve the libraries (what books they want there, etc.) will be invaluable as you go forward. Your project plan is strong very well organized -- I especially appreciate the specificity of your goals and steps you will take to get there, as well as the ways you'll know you are moving in the right direction as you implement the plan.

Things to Consider:
I'd echo Raul's comment -- I'd love to just hear a bit more about the injustice itself and your insight. Although a lack of access to to books is certainly a root cause of illiteracy -- I'm curious what you think the root cause beneath that first root cause is -- why do some communities not have access to books? How can your project address even deeper root causes and the structures that perpetuate that -- while providing access to books? It would be great if you could expand on your thinking so that everyone can understand what you've learned through your work, too!

Congratulations and best of luck with your project!  

RaulPF C. Peace First Staff
9 March 2018 10:54

Hi Ryan!

Thanks for updating your project with this work you are focusing on over the next few months.

As you know, as part of the Peace First project-making process, we give formal feedback on your compassionate insight. Once your insight is all set, then you can move forward with your mini-grant application if you need funds to help move your idea into action!

I want to give you feedback on your insight:
To solve this injustice of

we will address
easy access to books
creating free libraries within community areas"

Since I am familiar with your project, it is really easy for me to understand your insight. I was wondering if you would be able to add a little bit more detail to it so that other people can also understand better the insight you are using to frame your work. In particular, I was hoping for you to be able to expand on your injustice to better understand the angle you are using as well as your understanding of the root cause.

I am looking forward to seeing some updates as you implement this project.



Adrian B. Peace First Staff
7 March 2018 15:58

Hi Ryan! Thanks so much for posting this project. A member of our team will post insight feedback in more detail in a few days, but I wanted to let you know that we love this idea, and are excited to hear more about your thoughts. One question I have for you is what is the connection between literacy rates and gang violence? Are you sure that one causes the other? Or do they both exist in the same situations sometimes, but there is a different cause of both? Happy to think through this more with you, and looking forward to talking more!  

Adrian B. Peace First Staff
28 June 2018 17:02

Hi Ryan--this reflection feedback is from Dalton, a member of the Peace First team. Due to confusion with the new platform, it was posted on the old version of your project--I wanted to be sure you got to see it!

I also wanted to add--there are a few questions you may not have seen on the reflection form. Could you fill out those questions so your reflection is complete? Thanks so much!


Hi team!

Congratulations on finishing your peacemaking project! I’m on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for your amazing work and for taking time to share about your work.

Below you will find some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future:

The research you all have done is incredible! It's so impressive to see how much work you've put into really understanding the injustice at hand here. Not only have you done a lot of academic and statistical research, you've also gone out into the field and spoke to the people you aim to help!

I'd love to get a comprehensive update on the real journey of your work - starting this org 5 years ago, where you are now, and where these programs are going in the future!

We hope you will stay in touch and keep us up to date as you continue your work to create change!