>Happy Thanksgiving.

In my personal life, most of the things I’m thankful for are people, and I’m fortunate enough that I’ll be able to spend the day with a few of those people. In my work as an editor, I am also thankful for a number of people: writers, readers, staff… I am so thankful for all of them. But there is something I take for granted that is the basis for having known these people at all: literacy. For those of us who can read, it’s easy to forget that there are a number of people who can’t. And it’s easy to forget that our lives would be vastly different if we couldn’t read. Think for a bit about what your life would be like if you couldn’t read. Financially, it’d be disastrous—what jobs would be available to you? And in general quality of life, how much different would it be? You’d have to rely on television and word of mouth for knowledge of current events. You wouldn’t have the pleasure of reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in the morning, or reading another chapter of a novel in bed before turning off the light. Think of how many things you read during the day without a second thought: street signs, menus, emails. We possess a great gift, one that we (or at least I) rarely consider.

In light of that, I wanted to take a moment today to highlight some charities that focus on literacy. Each of the charities cited below has a four-star rating on Charity Navigator. I’m not going to twist arms to suggest a gift—each of us knows what he or she can afford to give each year, and many of us have our own favorite charities to whom we give. I just wanted to make this list available, in case anyone reading is looking for worthy organizations for his or her gifts.

Teaching Matters
475 Riverside Drive
Suite 1270
New York, NY 10115
tel: (212) 870-3505
fax: (212) 870-3516
Mission: Teaching Matters is a professional development organization that partners with educators to improve public schools. We use technology in the classroom to prepare teachers and their students for 21st Century learning and achievement. Founded in 1994 by teachers, technology experts, and business leaders, Teaching Matters provides teachers and principals with hands-on professional development in the classroom, in group workshops, and online. From the arts and literacy to science and social studies, we design programs that support your school’s curriculum and make learning more relevant and engaging.
Rating: 66.04

Reading Excellence and Discovery Foundation
One Penn Plaza
250 West 34th Street, 36th Floor
New York, NY 10119
tel: (212) 849-6830
fax: (212) 835-1505
Mission: Reading Excellence and Discovery (READ) Foundation was established in 1999 to address the high proportion of low-income students demonstrating below grade level reading skills. READ’s founders sought a research-based educational approach, which would yield measurable results for students and address reading difficulties before they became barriers to learning. READ employs one-on-one research-based reading instruction to prepare at-risk children to become proficient readers. READ recruits, trains and employs teens to teach reading skills to their younger peers who are struggling with learning to read. READ targets economically disadvantaged students and teens.
Rating: 65.62

United Through Reading
11555 Sorrento Valley Road
Suite 203
San Diego, CA 92121
tel: (858) 481-7323
fax: (858) 481-9489
Mission: The mission of United Through Reading is to facilitate supportive relationships for children through families and friends reading aloud with them. Our vision is that all children will feel the security of caring adult relationships and develop a love of reading through the read-aloud experience. Founded in 1989 as Family Literacy Foundation, we provide programs that encourage parents and other community members to read aloud with young children (ages 0-5) for the educational and emotional benefits to all involved.
Rating: 63.09

Children’s Literacy Initiative
2314 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
tel: (215) 561-4676
fax: (215) 561-4677
Mission: Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI) was founded in 1988 to enhance the opportunity for children from low-income families to enter school ready to learn and, once in school, to be successful in learning to read. CLI works to increase children’s literacy skills and to foster a love of reading by providing professional development for teachers of pre-kindergarten through third grade students. Our programs are designed to provide training in the most effective literacy practices and include quality books and materials for creating a literacy-rich classroom environment. CLI is involved in large projects in the public school systems of Philadelphia, Newark (NJ), Camden, Baltimore, and Boston, as well as training in several school districts in Pennsylvania.
Rating: 62.30

First Book
1319 F Street, NW
Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004
tel: (866) 732-3669
fax: (202) 628-1258
Mission: Founded in 1992, First Book is a national organization that gives children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. We provide an ongoing supply of new books to children participating in community-based mentoring, tutoring, and family literacy programs. First Book’s model is national in scope and local in impact. In our first year, First Book distributed approximately 12,000 books in three communities. Since that time, First Book has distributed more than 50 million books to children in over 1,300 communities around the country. First Book now is poised to enter a new stage of development that includes new national initiatives and international expansion.
Rating: 62.27

Reach Out and Read
56 Roland Street
Suite 100D
Boston, MA 02129
tel: (617) 455-0600
fax: (617) 455-0601
Mission: Founded in 1989, Reach Out and Read (ROR) promotes early literacy by making books a routine part of pediatric care. ROR trains doctors and nurses to advise parents about the importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric check-ups from six months to five years of age, with a special focus on children growing up in poverty. By building on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers, Reach Out and Read helps families and communities encourage early literacy skills so children enter school prepared for success in reading. Currently, there are over 3,100 ROR programs based on the ROR model, all located at clinics, hospitals, and health centers. ROR serves 2.6 million children annually and distributes over 4.3 million books each year.
Rating: 61.38

Literacy Assistance Center
32 Broadway
10th Floor
New York, NY 10004
tel: (212) 803-3351
fax: (212) 785-3685
Mission: The Literacy Assistance Center is dedicated to supporting and promoting the expansion of quality literacy services in New York. We provide services for: adult students who want to find free classes in reading, writing, and speaking English or information on getting their GED; literacy instructors who want to become more effective teachers; program managers who want to build a stronger literacy program; parents who want to help their children become better learners; policymakers who need information from the literacy field to inform their decisions; and all New Yorkers who want to participate in building a more vibrant, prosperous community. Over 800 programs across the state provide free and low-cost programs in English for speakers of other languages, adult basic education, and GED preparation.
Rating: 61.09

Reading Reform Foundation of New York
333 West 57th Street
Suite 1L
New York, NY 10019
tel: (212) 307-7320
fax: (212) 307-0449
Mission: Founded in 1981, Reading Reform Foundation of New York is a literacy organization whose experience has shown that almost every child, regardless of social and economic background, can learn to read, write and spell if taught by effective methods. We help teachers learn effective methods to teach reading, writing and spelling in three ways: by offering graduate and non-credit courses; by offering direct classroom training and; and by holding an annual fall conference attended by educators from New York City and the surrounding area.
Rating: 60.84

Or, if you’d rather volunteer your time helping kids with reading and writing, I can’t strongly enough endorse the mission and work of 826, the organization started in Valencia by Dave Eggers. With several chapters nationally, there may be a center near you. And if there’s not, contact them to see if there’s a way you can help nationally or work toward establishing a new chapter in your area.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And thank you so much to the organizations that help people read.


About smokelong

Our Mission: SmokeLong Quarterly is dedicated to bringing the best flash fiction to the web on a quarterly basis, whether writtenwidely published authors, or those new to the craft. The term "smoke-long" comes from the Chinese, who noted that reading a piece of flash takes about the same length of time as smoking a cigarette. All the work we publish is precisely that—about a smoke long.
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