Open Books Open Minds: Supporting literacy in West Philly

While environmental initiatives are essential to creating sustainable communities, addressing education issues is equally important. The West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC) was started in the 2003-04 academic year to support literacy efforts in the community. In support of WePAC’s Open Books Open Minds initiative, Impact100 recently awarded the organization a $100,000 grant.    

Developing literacy at a young age is critical to ensuring students graduate from high school. Low-income and minority students are found to be especially at risk. In 2009, 83% of students from low-income households were below the “proficient” level on the National Assessment of Education Progress reading test.

In West Philadelphia, the median household income is less than $20,000 annually and 80% of public school students score below grade level in reading or math, cites WePAC.

Open Books Open Minds aims to re-open public school libraries closed because of funding cuts. The program began with six volunteers in one elementary school. Since then, the program has reached seven schools, circulating 2,500 books a week to 3,000 students. They have 65 trained volunteers and more than 30,000 donated books.

The Impact100 grant will help increase library hours and renovate and re-open more public school libraries. Their goal: reach 5,000 children. The money will also support after-school programming run by WePAC, such as newspaper clubs.    

Impact100, whose mission is “1 woman, 1 vote,” unites women through a common philanthropic effort. Each member donates $1,000 annually. These contributions create a grant for nonprofit organizations chosen by the Impact100 collective. Each woman receives one vote in making this decision.

This June, operating grants of $20,000 were also given to the Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network and Urban Tree Connection. Operating grants of $12,000 were awarded to the Community Arts Center, and Concern for Health Options: Information, Care and Education.  

Find out more about Impact100 and the grant proposal process here.