Impacting Tomorrow Through Literacy

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Reading is FUNdamental (RIF) is the leading voice for children’s literacy in America and the oldest literacy program in the Nashville area. In 1989, Book’em was founded in response to RIF’s need for books and volunteers.

Starting as a collection and distribution program through the Christmas Clearing Bureau, Book’em grew into a pre-school reading program over the following years. In 2006, Book’em officially merged with RIF, and today, it administers the RIF program in 17 Title I Metro elementary schools.

The United Way of Nashville estimates only 34% of Metro Nashville Public School 3rd graders are reading at grade level. This is a troubling statistic considering that 3rd-grade children not reading at grade level are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers who can read at grade level. Thankfully, research shows that access to books and reading aloud to children, greatly increases their ability to learn to read, which is why programs like Book’em are so important.  

The Junior League of Nashville (JLN) has partnered with Book’em for the past few years, with most JLN volunteers serving as reading mentors. Reading mentors visit their assigned elementary school classroom five times throughout the school year. During their visit, reading mentors engage students through interactive reading that often ties into the teacher’s lesson plans. At the end of each visit, students are invited to pick their own book(s) to keep and enjoy at home. 

Since its inception, Book’em has distributed more than 1 million books and served more than 43,000 Nashville children. In 2018, Book’em distributed 100,000 books in Davidson County and supervised 230 reading volunteers. The goal for 2019 is to continue building on this success and expand the reach and impact even further.   

You can help Book’em achieve its important goals by signing up to volunteer in a variety of ways.  In addition to the reading mentor opportunity, volunteers may serve by:

  • processing book donations individually or as a group
  • organizing the RIF book room at Rose Park Middle School
  • staffing a promotional booth at community events
  • assisting with special events

“Partnering with JLN has a multitude of benefits for Book’em and our community. JLN’s funding and volunteers have made it possible for Book’em to move classrooms from our waiting list, provide them with RIF services and to collect and distribute thousands of additional books to those in need in Davidson County. That means more students are now proud book owners who have been exposed to caring, successful women from our community. Working together, we can help more children have a bright future because they have the foundational literacy skills they need” said Melissa Spradlin, Executive Director, Book’em.

This past Spring, our members cleaned and packed thousands of books to distribute to our community partners like Book’em.

If you are interested in volunteering as a reading mentor, please contact Connie Williams at For all other volunteer opportunities, please contact Erin Caby at  Additional information about Book’em may be found on their website at   

Volunteering with partners like Book’em also helps the JLN achieve its Literacy Outcomes goals of increasing access to literacy materials and educational support programs for at-risk children and their families.  Additional ways to help the League achieve its goals include serving during Members in Motion this fall and donating to the JLN Book Drive in April. Be sure to read your Tuesday News and follow JLN on social media to stay up-to-date on these opportunities and others. 

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Author: Mary Olson, Publications Chair-Elect ’19-20