Since fifth grade, my best friend Akil Clark and I have challenged each other both in school and in the community. We were passionate about reading, and I remember the joy books brought me in my childhood. Regardless of what was going on around me, a good story could take me places I could only dream of. I could travel to entirely different worlds – all while riding the bus ride home from school or sitting in my living room.
Through our competitive friendship, Akil and I each gained an intense passion for both reading and for developing new ways to give back to everyone around us. As we became adults and our lives expanded as fathers and advocates for all students, we saw a true need for role models in the classrooms of our own children, and throughout Des Moines schools.
We wanted to help make an impact. How could we make a big difference in a child’s life with a small footprint? That’s when our idea sparked.We wanted to give the joy we experienced in our own childhoods to all students. That’s why we created the Spark Foundation in 2018.
The Spark Foundation is dedicated to putting books into the hands of young students. We’ve donated over 10,000 free books to students in Kindergarten through 3rd grade in the Des Moines community through book fairs at Riverwood, Moulton and Monroe elementary schools.
When a student attends a Spark book fair, they are given a $25 spending limit. This spending limit helps them understand how to budget, and empowers them to spend within their budget on the books they love. They are picking up books that are exciting to them – not a parent or sibling or friend. They have their own choice to decide which books spark an interest in them and get them excited about reading. It’s so rewarding to see these kids react to their ability to choose and spend all on their own, and it’s a critical life skill that they can begin to practice early. For some of the kids, this is their first experience where they get to decide what they want.
As we know, there is a strong connection between one’s potential in life and their reading level. Regardless of background, we have worked hard to ensure these kids get the chance to read and engage their mind at a young age.
In the future, we hope to expand the Spark Foundation to different communities and different states. We want every student to have the chance to feel that “spark” and be excited about reading! We are always looking for volunteers who’d like to help bring the joy of reading to kids. If you’re interested, or want to learn more, reach out to me or go to sparkfndn.org.
Larry Twitty, Senior Human Resources Specialist/Recruiter