Three years ago, Ashley Anderson, a Houston teen, founded "cheeREADing" to address the lack of parental involvement in early childhood literacy. As a volunteer with the Keep Pace program, she noticed that many of the children lacked the necessary encouragement that creates excitement about learning, especially in reading. A former cheerleader, Ashley recognized what a powerful influence she, as an athlete, could have on these and other children. With this in mind, Ashley decided to form "cheeREADing" (Reading helps Everyone Accomplish Dreams).
Each week Ashley puts on her cheerleading uniform and goes out to the YMCA after-school programs in seven elementary schools in the Klein Independent School district. Each session begins with a "cheeREADing" pep rally, where the children are encouraged to yell for reading. This is followed by an interactive puppet show, which Ashley puts on herself. Following the puppet show, Ashley plays games with the children, gives away prizes and then ends each session with a story presentation.
In addition to the pep rally, the children are also encouraged to be a part of the Dream Team of reading. To complete the reading challenge, children must read 10 books or have 10 books read to them by their reading buddies. Once this is completed, they can receive a certificate of completion and become full-fledged members of the Dream Team, which often gives them a huge sense of pride and accomplishment.
Over the past three years, Ashley has gained the support of more than 350 members of The National Charity League.
In addition to her own work with program, Ashley also trains others who are interested, as well. Since its inception, the program has reached approximately 4,800 children in the Klein area of Texas. In addition to her work with "cheeREADing," Ashley is actively involved in the school choir and student council.