Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Caring Causes: Rise Up Foundation

Please enjoy this interview with Alane Adams, author and founder of Rise Up Foundation, to learn more about what her foundation does.

You are the founder of Rise Up Foundation – what is the mission of this organization and what sort of programs or initiatives do you do?
Since its inception in 2008, Rise Up has been focused on making an impact in the lives of disadvantaged children. Although Rise Up has funded global initiatives through organizations such as UNICEF, it’s primary focus is on supporting teachers across the US to help provide them and their students with the tools they need to succeed, with a particular emphasis on literacy. The majority of our time is spent on spreading a message that Reading is a Superpower. To that end, I travel across the country visiting schools and giving author talks to students about how book get written and inspiring them to become avid readers. To date I have visited over 300 schools, in over 30 states, talking to over 100,000 kids. In addition, we partner with literacy organizations to help put books in the hands of low-income children that don’t have easy access to books. We have partnered with First Book on several occasions to provide funding for new books, particularly in areas affected by natural disasters.

What did you do before becoming a literacy advocate? How did you make the pivot?
In my previous life I spent several years working in a family recycling industry. When I stepped down in 2008 I knew I wanted to try and find a way to use my time and talents to create some sort of lasting impact. After spending some time teaching at university, I rediscovered a long-time love of writing when my young son asked me to write him a book he could read. As I became a children’s author, I was able to dovetail all of my passions together: reading, writing, and creating an impact with kids. It took several years for all the pieces to come together, but we’re so excited to finally be in this position where all the work we do makes sense and ties together.

What does book accessibility mean to you and why did you decide to focus your efforts on children’s literacy?
Book accessibility is so critical for young children to develop a love of reading. That’s one of the reasons I chose to work with First Book because their goal is to put that “first book” into the hands of young children whose families might not be able to afford books. One of the critical needs I see in the classroom is a need for updated reading books—so often there is no funding to replace books and teachers are left with dog-eared copies of books that might be out of date or are falling apart. One of my favorite things to do is help teachers replace their classroom libraries with new books that children want to read, particularly diverse books that offer characters they can see themselves in.

You used to travel the country visiting schools, donating books and speaking at assemblies. How has COVID19 impacted your efforts this year in terms of school tours, funding efforts, and resources for classrooms and what are you doing instead?
Sigh. I remember those days of travel well. In the month of February 2020, I visited Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania! It seems like so long ago now. After the pandemic hit, I was forced to cancel all remaining school visits and have no travel plans for the immediate futures. This forced me to stop and take a look at what we are doing in erms of school-visits and how to make it more scalable. At my pre-pandemic travel rate, I was visiting on average 100 schools per year. It would be difficult to top that, and yet there are thousands of schools out there! I decided it was a good time to try to make a video version of my talk and see if I could capture the excitement and enthusiasm I generate when giving it live. We are currently in the process of script design and animation storyboarding, but I have to have a finished product this fall.

We’ve been noticing your #PointsForTeachers initiative on Twitter – can you share with our readers what this is and the goal? How can others participate?
Last fall, as I was scrolling through social media one night, I came upon a hashtag called #clearthelists which was a new grassroots initiative started by a teacher in Texas to help teachers get the supplies they needed to go back to school. Teachers spend on average $400-600 each year out of their own pocket to provide the essential items they need. Teachers were encouraged to share their Amazon wishlist using the #clearthelists, and other teachers would buy them small items off it. A box of pencils here, some makers there. It spread very quickly—teachers seemed to really enjoy giving to others. I thought it would be fun to jump in so I bought a few things off a list, tweeted the teacher back, and went to bed. Next morning I had hundreds of replies to my tweets and we quickly jumped into the deep end, helping over 500 teachers get back to school. It inspired us to want to do more, so this year, we came up with the idea of #pointsforteachers. The goal is to educate people on how easy it is to help a teacher at no cost. All you have to do is register your participating rewards card at Amazon.com/shopwithpoints, find a teachers wishlist on twitter by searching for the hashtag #pointsforteachers or #clearthelists, and you can make a teacher’s day by gifting them items off their list and pay with points at checkout. To kickoff the program, we pledged one million American Express points of our own to be used, and so far we’ve helped an additional 150 teachers.

You’re a children’s book author yourself, publishing picture books and middle grade books – what do you hope young readers takeaway from your stories?
I think every author hopes that the reader will discover a piece of themselves in the characters and find an escape from their own life. Reading is one of the few opportunities we have to get inside someone else’s thoughts, to really imagine what it would be like to be someone else, and thus learn empathy. My characters all have deep flaws—and I hope children see themselves in these characters—we are none of us perfect, and when we can see an imperfect character performing bravely, I hope it inspires them to believe that they too can be brave.

What’s next for Alane?
Right now we are in the thick of trying to turn my author talk into an interactive learning tool that can be used in classrooms across the country. I just wrapped up the third book in the Witches of Orkney series—Witch Wars, which comes out in October 2020, and am in the finishing stages of completing the second book in the Legends of Olympus series with The Medusa Quest set to come out in April 2021. Eventually, I hope to begin planning for future school visits but that may not happen until Fall 2021.

Alane Adams is the author of award-winning titles that include the Legends of Orkney™ Norse mythology series for middle grade readers, the Witches of Orkney prequel series, and a series of historical picture books set in the 1920s including The Coal Thief. Alane's newest Greek mythology series, The Legends of Olympus debuted Spring 2020 with The Eye of Zeus. Alane Adams and her books have been featured on BBC, Fox, the CW, Parade, Bustle, Today, People, and many more! When Alane is not writing or talking to kids in schools about Reading Is A Superpower, she’s out hiking somewhere in the world or hanging out with her three boys in Southern California. For more information, visit https://alaneadams.com or follow Alane on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @AlaneAdamsBooks.

Rise Up Foundation strives to improve the lives of children and families living in poverty and difficult circumstances, as well as teachers and educators of young children. Rise Up supports literacy projects as a path toward improving the future prospects of children in underserved communities by making book donations, providing classroom support, and grant-making. In addition to literacy efforts, Rise Up works with organizations committed to defining and solving the problems that chronic poverty brings to children and their communities.

In just the last two years, Rise Up has partnered with organizations such as First Book, Donors Choose, Teach Your Heart Out, and Reading is Fundamental to provide nearly $500,000 in funding, classroom supplies, and donated books, with an additional $170,000 in grants awarded to individual teachers. To date, Alane Adams and Rise Up Foundation has:
visited 300+ schools so far,
donated over 42,500 books,
reached over 100,000 kids in her efforts to create real and lasting change for children, schools, and families in need.

For more information, visit https://riseupfoundation.org or follow on Facebook @Rise.Up.Foundation and on Twitter @RiseUpFdn.

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