REAP (Reading is Essential for All People) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving reading proficiency in public school students. We believe the best way to make a positive impact on all public school children we must concentrate on their most valuable resource- public school teachers. The teachers in our program use their new skills in the regular classroom to ensure a strong reading foundation for all students. These teachers also serve as mentors for other teachers.
Who we are
REAP was founded in 2013 by husband and wife team, Jen and Jeremy Rhett, along with Carla Stanford, a close friend and 1st-grade teacher whose specialty is literacy.
Jeremy and I have been neighbors and friends with Carla and her family for about 9 years. Our children play, we spend time together as friends, and for the last couple of years, Carla and I have been exercising together very early in the morning. During that time we have discussed education and reading in general and she has known for years that we have struggling readers in our family. In 2012 Carla and I decided we were going to figure out a way to help struggling readers.
Fast forward to January of 2013. My husband and I are small business owners and we went to our annual franchise conference in Orlando. A dominant feature of the CertaPro Painters conference was about making sure your individual business is giving back to the community in a meaningful way. As Jeremy and I drove home from the conference we had a lot of time to talk. He was concerned that we donate to many different causes without truly making a difference in any one of them. I was concerned that we have not done enough for the community of struggling readers. Born was the idea of REAP. Reading is Essential for All People. Jeremy pulled out his laptop and we put form to the idea. He typed, we talked, it felt right. I knew this was it; I knew we needed to invest in our teachers.
My Dad is dyslexic and has struggled with reading his entire life. We watched to movie The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia together as a family. After the movie was over we talked about it in our living room. At first Dad was nonchalant and casual about the subject, but the further we got into the discussion the more he opened up and started to tell his story. He talked about his days in the Airforce in Okinawa during the Vietnam War in 1970. He was taking a scuba diving course from the Navy Seals stationed on the island and was determined to get his certification. By the end of the course he passed all of the physical tasks with flying colors and it was clear to the instructors that he had a strong grasp of the material. But then – there was the written test. He missed every single question on the exam. The Navy Seals, knowing how well he knew the answers to the questions, allowed him to take the exam verbally. When he did so, he got an A on the exam – he passed it flawlessly.
As he told this story he became very emotional. He said that was the first time in his life that he realized he was smart. Up until that point, he thought he was doomed to failure.
I have known most of my life that Dad couldn’t read, that he was dyslexic. And yet he supported a family, founded a business and ran it successfully for over 30 years, served on the vestry of his church, and by all measures was a successful contributor to our small town community of Pulaski, Virginia.
In the ‘80’s I saw the difficulties that my brother had in school during another generation of confusion and misunderstanding on the matter of dyslexia. When my oldest son, Harper, started school I thought that, if dyslexia were an issue, surely there would be much more knowledge available in our school systems than in my father’s time, or in my brother’s time. So imagine my surprise that in a new century, in a newer, more modern era of teaching with the best teachers in a phenomenal school system, very little was still known about dyslexia. We have been extremely fortunate that the City Schools of Decatur has given Harper a fantastic school experience so that he loves school. We also found tremendous support in his tutor. And I have to tell you, after watching 3 generations of my family struggle with reading; this has become a subject that is very close to my heart.
The great news is that there are methods of teaching and learning that are extremely effective. They work not only for struggling readers, but for the typical student, as well. Our mission at REAP is to train teachers in these methods.