Story Shares is a nonprofit devoted to inspiring reading practice and improving literacy skills.
Story Shares is a 501©3 nonprofit focused on supporting the millions of teens and adults who struggle with reading, by creating a new shelf in the library specifically for them. This growing collection of stories features content that is compelling and culturally relevant for teens and adults, yet still readable at a range of lower reading levels.
We crowdsource the new books, bringing together a community of writers to contribute. With more intriguing and approachable stories to choose from, the teens and adults who have fallen behind are improving their skills and beginning to discover the joy of reading.
774 million teens and adults globally lack crucial literacy skills.
- 70% of US high school students need some form of reading remediation.
- To become a stronger reader, one must read.
- We all read things that interest us. We engage when the content feels relevant.
- This creates a major problem for struggling teen and adult readers: how do they improve their literacy skills? They need to practice reading… But with what?
- A 19-year-old reading at a 3rd grade level is not interested in books meant for 3rd graders. But the books for his age group are too hard. This lack of choices is deeply demotivating, making him likely disengage entirely.
- We have created a new (and growing!) shelf in the library to engage teens & adults who read below grade level.
- Our books are created specifically for struggling teen and adult readers: intriguing, culturally relevant themes, age-appropriate characters… but approachable language and format.
- We run writing contests and crowdsource books: providing writers with the tools, guidance, and incentives to create them.
- The best books are published in digital and print form, and distributed through multiple channels to hundreds of thousands of readers globally.
- Students who are offered these books are reading more, gaining confidence, and improving their literacy skills.
Our solution began as an experiment: could we provide struggling teen and adult readers with new books to choose from that would motivate them to spend time reading? Could we create these new books? We launched our first writing contest in 2013 as a project within a family foundation. We called for writers, teachers, parents, and anyone else to follow our guidelines and create new stories for struggling readers.
The results were so compelling that Story Shares the organization was born. We learned that yes, we could build a collection of these books. Really, really good ones. And we could do so in an efficient and low-cost way: by tapping into the existing community of writers.
So, in 2015, with an initial set of great stories and a website, we began scaling our efforts to turn them into an ongoing solution. Since then, we have run three more contests, generated thousands more submissions, and reached hundreds of thousands of readers around the world.
Our Key Principles
Part 1: Reader Engagement
- Readers bring unique needs, interests, lenses, and abilities. We can meet readers where they are regardless of their intersection of age and reading level. A reader's engagement is a crucial factor in their ability to improve their reading abilities
- Reader choice is a key factor of engagement
- Content that is culturally relevant, age-appropriate, and relatable is key for engagement
- Aesthetics are a key component of engagement and appeal
Part 2: Content Creation
- There are tons of writers out there, many who seek outlets and exposure for their work
- There are tons of readers and educators out there who constantly seek more content that is higher interest but also more readable
- In spite of the huge population of struggling readers 10 and up, most writers are largely unaware of this population and their reading needs
- With incentives, simple guidance and digital tools, writers will create high-quality content aligned with the needs of the audience
- We can position Story Shares in between these two populations, and provide a platform to connect them, which will streamline the process and enable writers to create content for the readers and teachers who seek it (a pipeline for ongoing content creation and consumption)