While I have worked with many nonprofits, old and new, it is rare that I have worked with a nonprofit from its founding. Beginnings are the best time for a nonprofit because it is the point when the passion for the goal is at its highest. While people remain committed if the goal has meaning, I have seen the passion wane as programs mature. This has not been the case for 10BH.
10BH has constantly solidified its focus since Paul first asked for my help. At the start, we went door-to-door in Palo Alto to request book donations. Even though our sales pitch was unique, as we asked only for books and not for money, more than once I had to explain to a perplexed resident that I was not soliciting and I was not after cash donations.
From our efforts, and Paul’s own relentless pursuit of donors, we were able to secure thousands of books for all ages. This was the first instance of Paul sacrificing his own living space for the cause (boxes of books were stacked eight high and five deep in his living room). It took us several months to get those books moved out and Paul maintained his enthusiasm and drive throughout.
While our stock grew, Paul built up connections with the local preschools and kindergartens in the Ravenswood District where our volunteers went and read to the students in their classes. Throughout all of this activity, Paul continued to shift our focus toward the root of the achievement gap in this area.
The studies, the testimonials, and the observations all pointed toward the same conclusion: everything started early. A person’s attitude toward reading, learning, and school started young and grew progressively harder to change as they got older. If 10BH was going to make the impact it intended, it had to focus on young children and their families in their homes.
The Living Room Literacy program (soon to be renamed the Child-Parent Home Tutoring Program) was the groundbreaker program established in 2012 – an early education program that occurs in the home. There was no building to drive the children to, no facilities to maintain, just a one-on-one session between the Learner, Role Model, and the parent.
When Paul asked me to help pioneer this program I agreed readily and started working with my first families. Paul continued to fine tune the goals and methods of the program while I cycled through several families and saw firsthand the changes wrought by our efforts. For all of the improvements I had seen in children of older ages, it was nothing compared to the changes in the children as young as 3 who started this program with no real literacy training. They have ended up as early readers.
As 10BH moves into a new building (one that Paul doesn’t have to live in), I am awed at the progress achieved in just 5 years. More than a new place to work and store books, this building represents a huge step forward in the evolution of what remains one of the most ambitious and profound nonprofits I have ever had the pleasure of working with.
Our aim targets the entire family and seeks to create a home environment filled with learning. From the start, we have worked using nothing but donations from those people who choose to believe in our goal. Each change in 10BH has been a reboot, a renewing of the passion and energy which started the nonprofit. This is another beginning, and beginnings are the best times.