“During my first year of teaching, I asked my students to read for 15 minutes at home each night. One student replied that he didn’t have any books at home to read. It didn’t take me long to realize that student’s problem wasn’t unique. According to the Handbook of Early Literacy Research, the ratio of books per child in low-income neighborhoods is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children.

I felt compelled to do something to help my students and others like them – so I combined my passion for cycling and reading. The result: Ride for Reading (RfR).

Our mission is to promote literacy and healthy living by donating books via bicycle to children from low-income areas. Since our start in February 2008, RfR has donated more than 500,000 books, delivering them by bicycle to kids at Title I schools.

Every month in Nashville, as many as 50 cyclists gather and ride to the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods with books in tow. The riders arrive to smiles, homemade welcome signs, and cheering children. Once they come to a stop, an RfR representative speaks to the children about the importance of a healthy life and literacy – and describe the various types of bikes ridden by the volunteers (mountain, road, commuter, tandem, etc.).

Then the children raise their right hand and pledge:

I promise to read my book twice. I will never ever throw my book away. I will pass it on to a friend, family member, neighbor, classmate or someone else I know. And I promise to be the best student for the rest of the year!

In 2011, we brought our mission to Interbike, the cycling industry’s largest trade show – and, with the help of several industry companies, government agencies, and other organizations, more than 100 volunteers showed up to help transport more than 2,500 books to the students of Peterson Elementary School in Las Vegas. In 2014, there were 52 cities, from Maryland to California, who spread Ride for Reading’s mission to children who come from low-income areas.

In order to help more children, we began a national push called National Ride for Reading Week. During this week, RfR volunteers and partners across the nation host their own book delivery via bicycle. In 2019, there are 20 cities, from D.C to California, who will be spreading Ride for Reading’s mission to children who come from low-income areas.

Ride for Reading believes that education is not only found within the four walls of a school building. Within the pages of a book you can go anywhere, see anything, and experience everything. Every child deserves that despite economic status.”

Mattew Portell– Mathew Portell
Founder, Ride for Reading
Nashville, Tennessee

1Neuman, Susan B. and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: 2006, p. 31