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How Page Ahead Got Started

Once Upon A Time…
Six friends had a wonderful idea –
that all children deserve books, no matter their families’ income level.

To make this idea a reality, our heroes, or Team Six as they called themselves, decided to organize a book drive.  The idea was originally conceived as a Leadership Tomorrow service project in 1989.  With the help of The Boeing Company and the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the team created Books for Kids, a project to provide new books to children in the Puget Sound area.  They wanted to give children books for “enjoyment reading” to help them develop a love of reading and thereby enhance their literacy skills. 

The team was concerned that there was no comprehensive program in the Puget Sound area to support families, schools and libraries as these institutions try to meet children’s literacy needs.  Books for Kids was intended to fill the gap by providing support in the form of books. 

During their discovery process, Team Six uncovered this powerful and disturbing statistic:

One-quarter of Seattle 7th graders will drop out of school before high school graduation. These children had early lack of success in school and test low on standardized tests. They are disproportionately from low-income, single-parent homes and are a racial minority.  Mary Beth Celio, “Falling Through the Cracks: A Study of Dropouts in the Seattle Public Schools,” 
The Seattle Youth Investment School Study, September 20, 1989.

This information informed the project’s goals, and the team decided to focus their efforts on economically and educationally disadvantaged children, and Books for Kids was born!

Many community businesses and organizations pitched in.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer provided advertising asking the community to donate new books and money.  Book stores provided book collection spots, and lists of needed books to their customers.  The PI accepted monetary donations, using the funds to purchase books through Scholastic Publishers.  The Seattle Public Library provided expertise on age-appropriate books, and volunteers to sort and place book plates in the donated books.  The Boeing Company and Seafirst provided funding to get the project off the ground.  Boeing employees also conducted key initial book drives and provided volunteer support. With a budget of less than $50,000, and an intern to run the daily operations, Books for Kids began its first year. 

The response from teachers and families, and of course the kids, was overwhelmingly positive, and our heroes realized that their project needed to become a permanent program.  Keltie Wright, Books for Kids’ first Executive Director, was hired, and the program expanded to include communities across Washington State.  In 2001 the name was changed from Books for Kids to Page Ahead, signifying the organization’s expansion from a book give-away program to a comprehensive literacy program, incorporating workshops for families, and Story Times for children.  And what about Team Six, our heroes? 
Well, they read happily ever after.