This Week at READ USA

Peace In The Pages

READ to be Free Award Honoree: Kevin Gay, Founder of Operation New Hope

  • Read USA Inc.
  • August 23 2023

This week we are honored to highlight our 2023 Peace in the Pages READ to be Free Award Honoree, Mr.KevinGay_ReadtobeFree Kevin Gay, Founder and retired CEO of Operation New Hope and a strong advocate for literacy in our community!

A native of Jacksonville, Kevin has dedicated his personal and professional life to helping underserved communities find their way out of addiction, poverty, and incarceration. He founded Operation New Hope in 1999 and has achieved phenomenal advances in providing second chances to formerly incarcerated citizens, which has repeatedly earned national attention. During the past 20+ years, Kevin has been invited to the White House on several occasions to meet with Presidents and their staffs to promote and help strengthen Operation New Hope’s Ready4Work Re-entry program.

In 2019, Kevin was invited to South Africa to visit with Dr. Makaziwe Mandela, daughter of Nelson Mandela, and her daughter, Tukwini. They visited Jacksonville later that same year to celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day, and honored Kevin with the House of Mandela Reflecting Freedom Award for Community Impact, with Operation New Hope’s Ready4Work program acknowledged as a model program for the world.

“I believe READ USA is critical to liberating the next generation from poverty and violence by making books available to all children and, through the teen tutoring program, teaching them to read and appreciate their books,” said Kevin, who credits literacy for his ability to converse with people from all walks of life and to initiate programs that bring about positive change in this world. “When we read to be free, we develop the framework and foundation needed to succeed in life – which starts with literacy. I am thrilled to be honored by READ USA!”

Read more about Kevin Gay here.

Also, you can read more about our 2023 Peace in the Pages event, presented by David & Monique Miller, which will take place on Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at TIAA Bank Field, here.

Donors who support READ USA at $1,000 a year or more receive several benefits, including seats at Peace in the Pages. You can become a READ USA donor today by clicking here.

Keynote Speaker to Sign Books at Peace in the Pages

Our team is thrilled that author Shelley Read, who recently published her first, internationally acclaimed Shelley Read_large novel, Go as a River, will be our keynote speaker at Peace in the Pages presented by David & Monique Miller in September – but that’s not all!

(#ICYM our announcement about her the other week, you can read more about Ms. Read – yes, her last name is READ!here.) There is such serendipitous alignment between Ms. Read and READ USA, and we are elated that she will join us.

READ USA will also have copies of Ms. Read’s new novel available at Peace in the Pages! She will be available to personally sign your copy after the event and mingle with attendees.

GAAR_112822_Final_RegEdition_largeBelow is a synopsis of Go as a River from the publishers Spiegel & Grau. PLUS, we will have a special surprise for Peace in the Pages attendees at the event!

Set amid Colorado’s wild beauty, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story of a resilient young woman whose life is changed forever by one chance encounter. A tragic, uplifting novel of love and loss, prejudice and family, wilderness and survival—and hope.

Seventeen-year-old Victoria Nash runs the household on her family’s peach farm in the small ranch town of Iola, Colorado—the sole surviving female in a family of troubled men. Wilson Moon is a young drifter with a mysterious past, displaced from his tribal land and determined to live as he chooses.

Victoria encounters Wil by chance on a street corner, a meeting that profoundly alters both of their young lives, unknowingly igniting as much passion as danger. When tragedy strikes, Victoria leaves the only life she has ever known. She flees into the surrounding mountains where she struggles to survive in the wilderness with no clear notion of what her future will bring. As the seasons change, she also charts the changes in herself, finding in the beautiful but harsh landscape the meaning and strength to move forward and rebuild all that she has lost, even as the Gunnison River threatens to submerge her homeland—its ranches, farms, and the beloved peach orchard that has been in her family for generations. 

Inspired by true events surrounding the destruction of the town of Iola in the 1960s, Go as a River is a story of deeply held love in the face of hardship and loss, but also of finding courage, resilience, friendship, and, finally, home—where least expected. This stunning debut explores what it means to lead your life as if it were a river—gathering and flowing, finding a way forward even when a river is dammed.

You can read more about Shelley Read here.

#ICYMI: Tutoring’s Impact on Tutors

In case you missed it last week, be ready to be inspired today!

Our teen tutors say it best themselves when they talk about how tutoring has positively impacted their lives and gives them the opportunity to earn a living wage while in school.

WATCH two of our incredible teen tutors discuss tutoring:

                                  tutoring video link

READ USA is seeking teen tutors for our fall tutoring season, which kicks off on September 11!LEARN MORE & APPLY

Meet Our New Team Member: Dr. Barbara Lacey!

Dr. Barbara Lacey, a lifelong educator who has dedicated her career to literacy, has joined the READ USA team as our new Book Programs and Family Engagement Director!

We are thrilled for Barbara to join us and contribute her unique perspectives and unbridled passion for reading and literacy. 

Board Member photo template Barbara leads all of READ USA’s book programming and events through our Book Choice & Ownership and Multicultural Literacy programs, with a particular focus on engaging families and parents across the community in ways they can instill a love for reading and help cultivate literacy skills in the home.

“Family engagement is quite intimate; it’s about building relationships and fostering trust with parents,” Barbara shared. “Sometimes parents can be reluctant or may not understand what you’re offering as a resource – it can look differently to some. But, when we approach this with humility and focus on building trust and meeting parents where they are, wonderful outcomes occur for parents, students, and the entire household. This – and my genuine love for researching and selecting books appropriate for all sorts of ages, stages, interests, and occasions – is what gets me so excited about the work I am doing.”

Barbara has spent most of her nearly 30-year career in the classroom, serving as an educator for middle and high school students as well as college students, mostly focused on literacy, comprehension, and English Language Arts.

“Retiring from the K-12 school system after 20 years felt like I reached a peak in my career, and then I remembered: I am lifelong learner! I knew there was ‘something next’ for me, and this opportunity was the perfect intersection of my passions: literacy, education, and students. Children embody hope, and when they have the skills and desire to immerse themselves in books, they have the opportunity to shine from the inside out.”

Read more about Dr. Lacey here  – and feel free to give her a warm welcome on our social media!

Vista: Much More Than a Pleasant View!

When the word “vista” comes to mind, most people think of beautiful beach views, stunning sunsets over the St. Johns River, or the peaceful landscapes of Jacksonville’s numerous parks.

While we have many gorgeous vistas in Northeast Florida, we also have many other VISTAs: Volunteers in Service to America! VISTA service members, who number more than 7,000 across America, provide a backbone of support to our nation’s nonprofit and community service organizations.

Through the AmeriCorps VISTA program, community-oriented people receive a living allowance, an education award, professional development training and support, and healthcare benefits by serving in a one-year support role. And READ USA has multiple opportunities!

The following positions we are seeking to fill will help us grow and improve the lives of even more children and teens in our community:

  • Development Associate will support the sustainability of READ USA through partnership building with private funders and other development activities.
  • Logistics and Scaling Associate will provide logistical support to the READ USA Literacy Tutoring program and support expansion.
  • Grant and Proposal Writing Associate will seek out and apply for grant opportunities while helping maintain positive relationships with funders and stakeholders.
  • External Communications Associate will help enhance external communications by collaborating with the communications team to identify and pursue opportunities to creatively develop digital and printed content.
  • Volunteer Recruitment Associate will help develop and implement a comprehensive volunteer recruitment and management process.
  • Tutor Recruitment Associate will help develop and implement a comprehensive teen tutor recruitment and management process.

Interested to learn more? Visit the Apply section of our website:




Children’s Book: A Girl Can Build Anything, by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow Miller

Illustrated by Keisha MorrisAgirlcanbuildanything_large

Have you ever dreamed of building or designing something? Maybe something like a tree house or something big like a complex amusement park design? If you can imagine it, you can build it!

A Girl Can Build Anything is an inspiring colorful picture book, which reminds the reader that girls can build anything they imagine. This book is a celebration of all the different ways girls can make things with all forms of building materials. Throughout this book, girls are encouraged to believe in their power to succeed even when the task is difficult. This story empowers girls to take chances, to explore, and to follow their dreams.

A Girl Can Build Anything has a motivational tone and fosters determination and perseverance. The brightly colored illustrations support the premise of the book leaving the reader to believe a girl can build anything.

Submitted by Dr. Barbara Lacey-Allen, Book Programs & Family Engagement Director

Parent Education Corner: Breaking Sentences into Words and Syllables

To help children learn how to break sentences into words and words into syllables, incorporate these activities at home. These activities are typically appropriate for children in kindergarten and first grade.

Learning how to identify words in sentences and syllables within words helps children understand how to break down the sounds within spoken language. Identifying parts of speech—such as words and syllables—will prepare children to learn about smaller sounds tied to specific letters. These are skills that a child can practice even before he or she has started reading or identifying sounds in words.

Show children that they can break down sentences into words:

  • Practice identifying the words in a sentence by saying a sentence aloud and asking the child to count the number of words in that sentence.
  • For instance, have the child count the number of words in the sentence “The boy ate two pieces of pizza,” and correct any mistakes.

Talk about how to combine two words to form another word and about how some words can be broken into smaller words. The box below shows a conversation about this.

After children can identify words in sentences, they can begin to break words into syllables. Here are two examples of how to model breaking words into syllables:

  1. Place your hand under your chin and notice the number of times your chin moves down as you say a word slowly.
  2. Hold up a finger for each syllable as you say a word.

After showing these strategies, have your child practice finding syllables in familiar words, such as their name, siblings’ names, and pet names.

From The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and The What Works Clearinghouse.

Submitted by Kathi Hart, Tutoring Program Content Specialist

Do you have any questions or ideas for the Parent Education Corner? Anything you’d like to learn? Let us know here!