About Our Kids Read

Incorporated in 2019, Our Kids Read is a MD-based 501c3 non-profit organization that serves the students across the United States. Our two core programs are: (1) donations of diverse books directly to children and also to the schools that they attend and (2) a Remote Reading Buddy program where students read with one of our volunteers in the evening via Zoom. Please “play” on the video embedded here to view a recent book donation event.



General Information

  • Founded: 2019
  • Employees: 3
  • Volunteers: 164
  • Headquarters: Laurel, MD

Press Contact

Our Story

Our Kids Read was conceived in 2006 by Jahmal Lake and finally brought to life by a generous gift from his mother, Dr. Obiagele Lake, upon her passing in 2020. Dr. Lake specified that $50,000 of her son’s inheritance was to be used to start a program to uplift people of color and make a meaningful difference in their lives. Dr. Lake’s son, Jahmal Lake, chose literacy as mechanism by which to honor his mother’s legacy.

Understanding the Problem
Articulating the challenges African-American, Latinx and Indigenous people disproportionately face in American is not difficult. While there are pockets of achievement and success within all three of these communities, the vast majority of BIPOC communities are disproportionately impacted by issues of lack of education, inadequate access to financial resources and good paying jobs and poor healthcare systems. Making the decision about which of the myriad of issues that plague communities of color to attack first is not easy. Our Kids Read chose literacy only because education has traditionally been a reliable path out of poverty and lack of opportunity. Taking a look at the literacy statistics in the United States, a terrifying picture emerges: 18%, 19% and 23% of African-American, Indigenous and Latinx children, respectively. are reading at grade-level by the end of the 3rd grade. Said a different way, 82%, 81% and 77% of these communities ARE NOT reading at grade level, half-way through elementary school.

Architecting Part of the Solution
Our Kids Read understands that our programs alone will not solve the problem of low literacy rates in BIPOC communities. What we do hope, however, is that by creating a scalable, national program that make an appeal to ALL Americans to donate 30-minutes per week to read to a child, we will be able to move the literacy needle, ever so slightly. Our approach integrates the concepts of identity, choice and mentorship
- leveraging books featuring BIPOC characters, we aim strengthen our participants connection to the materials (IDENTITY)
- by allowing the children that participate in our program to *choose their own books* from our BIPOC book collection, we offer them a freedom to explore both their own interests as well as explore new territory (CHOICE)
- our mentors serve as another member of our students “tribe,” someone to laugh with, read with, tell about their day and share both their frustrations and triumphs (MENTORSHIP)

our team

Jahmal Lake
Executive Director, Executive Board Member

Denise Doig
Executive Board member

Myrleen Springer
Executive Board member

Vanessa Fernandez
Executive Board Member

Sophia Steele
Director, Community Partnerships

Kortenay Gardiner
Director, Development

Lance Gartrell
Manager, Technology and Infrastructure


Make a Dollar Donation

Donate a book, a classroom full of books or just a few dollars to support diversity in your local schools. As Our Kids Read is 100% volunteer funded, 91 cents out of every dollar goes to the book giving program.

Donate Diverse Books

Have gently used diverse books you'd like to donate to a child in our schools? We will send you a postage paid self-addressed media mailer for you to send the book to the Our Kids Read sorting depot for sterilization and distribution.