Meet Our Community Partner: Read It & Leave It
This month, we’re highlighting one of our community partners, Read It & Leave It. This non-profit champions childhood literacy and culturally conscious literature by helping parents build their child’s home libraries and hosting literacy community events. We spoke with the founder, Miosha Randolph-Johnson on her inspiration behind the organization, how she wants to impact her community and which yummy Gwell snacks she enjoys the most.
*This interview has been edited for brevity*
What inspired you to start Read It & Leave It?
Miosha: It started because I wanted to recycle the books that my son had outgrown back into the community. Out of curiosity I started to do research on the impact of having books in your home, the statistics that I found were staggering. The amount of books that you have in your home helps inform how you’ll do in school. If you’re not reading to your young children at home, you’re not developing their executive functions. With reading, there’s so many factors that tie into how well you do in school and our youths overall life trajectory. When I would take my son to play dates and see no books in the home, I knew this was a problem in our community. It's called “book deserts” and I knew I could do something to alleviate that, so I did it.
In what ways do you believe your organization is helping people to live better?
Not only are we providing books for the children, we do a lot of fun, literacy enrichment activities. We also make sure the books they receive are culturally conscious. It’s important that in their home libraries, children of color have books with characters that look like them, characters they can relate to. It’s important for the children to see themselves represented in the books they read so they can be engaged. Having books at home also creates bonding time for the parents and children. I believe I’m helping the next generation thrive because reading is fundamental for every aspect of our lives. You can’t navigate the world or advocate for yourself if you can’t read. Empowering the children to be able to advocate for themselves, navigate their communities and do well in school will help them do better in life.
How did you hear about Gwell and what attracted you to partner with us?
I found out about it through Harlem Grown. Tony Hillery [founder of Harlem Grown] helped me start Read It & Leave It. My son was a participant in their summer camp so one day I asked him about how he started a successful nonprofit and he advised me to just do it. He set me up at one of his partner schools and I started within a week. While at one of Harlem Grown’s community events, there were Gwell snacks. I thought they were amazing! I love that the ingredients had so many superfoods incorporated like chaga mushrooms and matcha. I wanted to partner with Gwell because I always want to introduce healthy habits to my community.
What are three goals you have for Read It & Leave It?
My goals are to improve our youths' attitudes around reading, provide culturally conscious books for children so they have an engaging home library and to close the achievement gap to brighten our youths' future.
How would you describe your organization to a kindergarten student?
It’s a program where you can play, learn, take books home with children that look like you and eat healthy snacks.
How has your culture influenced the way you eat?
My mom has always been a healthy eater so the culture I was brought up in was very health conscious. She used to make this really good tofu, potato and onion dish. I grew up in a household that understood that what you put in your body is very important and I carry that on with my son. I try to only eat foods that are good for me but also taste good. Of course, I deviate sometimes.
What’s your favorite snack when you're feeling nostalgic and/or need comfort?
I love, at any time, a strawberry mango smoothie. Strawberries, mangos, dates and water. So good. If I want it thicker, I’d add some nuts like cashews and for added health benefits, sea moss.
What is your favorite Gwell product?
The Reishi and Chaga tea cookies are so good. The children said they kind of taste like chocolate.
It was a pleasure speaking with Miosha about her amazing work with Read It & Leave It. To find out more about the organization, visit their website at riali.org or their social media page @readitandleaveitharlem.
Thank you, Read It & Leave It!