At age 10, Jordan Grabelle founded Love Letters for Literacy, an innovative nonprofit which promotes childhood literacy in at-risk communities. Over the past five-plus years, Love Letters has recruited close to five thousand volunteers of all ages and abilities across all 50 states and in 19 countries to create simple literacy packets for pre-readers which help explain to families the importance of teaching young children their letters at home. Each packet includes 26 flashcards from A-Z, a note encouraging learning to read, and instructions explaining engaging games to play with the flashcards that children can play with their friends and families.Updates from Love Letters for Literacy
By the age of ten, I had spent three years volunteering at free book fairs in lower income neighborhoods. While the children were excited to receive new books, I was upset to see how many read far below their grade level. I then learned that lower-income children typically know only one or two letters of the alphabet when starting kindergarten compared to middle class children who usually know all 26 letters. I wanted to level the educational playing field for these vulnerable students, so I founded Love Letters for Literacy.
I remembered the joy I had learning to read by playing games with large, foam letters. I wanted to provide these children with the same resources I had access to when I was learning to read. I loved learning to read by playing games with large foam letters. However, donating foam letters would be expensive, so the idea was born to create the cost-effective handmade literacy packets. At first I made most of the packets myself and donated to nearby schools, but as demand increased I recruited volunteers of all ages and backgrounds to participate in this simple arts and crafts project. Through partnerships and social media, Love Letters has expanded from a local project to a global nonprofit.
I am excited for the Call for Kindness opportunity because I am able to join and collaborate with a network of other youth passionate about community service. I am also looking forward to expanding the impact of Love Letters for Literacy thanks to the generosity of a Call for Kindness grant.
Luckily, Love Letters has been able to adapt to social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis. Since the creation of the packets requires materials most people already have in their houses and the pandemic has provided people with lots of free time, many volunteers have continued making packets during this unprecedented time. Many college and high school service groups have hosted virtual Love Letter packet making events to make a difference while also staying in touch and socializing. We have also connected with various nonprofit early childhood education programs which are receiving packets through the mail to distribute to the children they serve. Hopefully, later this year in-person packet-making events and packet distributions will be able to continue.
Love Letter for Literacy has been fortunate to be able to grow and adapt during the pandemic. Since June, Love Letters for Literacy has expanded and impacted more children in need. After gathering data from volunteers and the schools with which we work, we learned that we have impacted 23,400 children with the help of 12,500 volunteers. Love Letters has also increased its global presence and now has volunteers and impacted children in 22 countries. During the summer we also took the time to revamp our website. Our new website is easier for volunteers and partners to navigate, and also provides a space for volunteers and families impacted by Love Letters to share their stories.
Love Letters has also developed new partnerships with nonprofits and corporations. In July, we partnered with Fortune 500 company International Paper for their national interns’ volunteer day. Their interns used paper supplied by the company and donated packets to children in need who live near the company’s headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. To get literacy packets into the hands of children who need them the most, during COVID we decided to establish partnerships with nonprofits who were continuously serving lower income families.