How it all began
In 2007, at an interclub meeting, Assistance League of Los Gatos/Saratoga shared a program with AL of San Jose called WALTR (We All Love to Read). Utilizing the ideas of WALTR, AL of San Jose devised Readers Are Leaders (RAL).  ALSJ members got in touch with area schools, found interest and received a grant through Intero Realty.

The Focus
To instill a love of reading in young students with volunteers reading in classrooms on a regular basis.

The Goal
To read 12 books a year, 6 times a year, for 30 minutes with 2 readers per class.

Readers Are Leaders - reading to students at Stipe Elementary
Readers Are Leaders Volunteer

The Reading Program
The books were chosen by a Book Selection Committee of AL of San Jose members. Reading sessions were scheduled by a school liaison and a School Team Lead. After each session, the classroom teacher would keep the books for the classroom library. Students received a gift bag to take home for December reading.

In the beginning, RAL read in 5 schools with 4-5 classes at each, servicing 750 students. Right before the pandemic in 2020, RAL read in 10 schools to 62 classrooms servicing 1700 students. In 2022, with declining enrollment, RAL is reading to 53 classrooms servicing 1300 students.

During the pandemic, we delivered books to teachers without knowing if they had time to read them to the students. Our goal was to get books in the hands of children. In 2021, students received books 3 times a year. In 2022, students received 6 books a year with teachers getting 12 books a year, plus a gift book in December. As of this writing in 2022, if money is available, students will receive 2 High Interest Science books at the end of the school year for summer reading.

Enrichments began with bookworm bookmarks crocheted by our Caring Hands members. At first, there were enrichments for 1 book each month, now there are enrichments for all 12 books that are read. Enrichments enhance student understanding and enjoyment of the books, and are an extension related to the theme or story. They are kept simple for students to do without much help and not to be a burden for the teacher. All enrichments are to be considered as “fun”  with AL of San Jose supplying the instructions and materials for each book. The enrichments include posters, games, bookmarks, art projects, puzzles, sequencing and word searches. In 2022, 1300 enrichments for 1300 students are passed out each month.

The What Ifs Book with student and teacher projects
Game for Facts vs Opinions vs Robots Book
Poster in Hicklebee's window

Relationships with Book Sellers
From the start, we had a good relationship with Hicklebee’s BookStore. They would do demonstrations of new books for us and give us 70-100 books to take on consignment.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Hicklebee’s couldn’t let books out on consignment and choosing books became more difficult. Hicklebee’s was giving us a discount of 20%; we discovered Barnes & Noble would give us 38%. As a result, we began working with the local Barnes & Noble store too.

Thank You Barnes & Noble and your Customers

Our relationship with Barnes & Noble has grown. The local San Jose store and its customers donate hundreds of new books and games to AL of San Jose in December which are distributed to the schools and to other organizations we service. We were also able to distribute hundreds more new books that the store was culling to make room for new inventory.

The Readers Are Leaders focus and goal remain the same today as when the program began. We are excited to be able to bring the love of literature to so many 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms in San Jose.