More than 20% of Arkansas’ citizens are functionally illiterate and Rhonda Allen is determined to improve the overall state of literacy in Arkansas, one student at a time. Inspired by her 93-year old great grandmother, who taught herself to read without substantial formal education, Rhonda shares her optimism for literacy with children. She provides a supplemental literacy curriculum for 1st grade students that include a “Reading Challenge” which consists of “One Hour of Power” family reading time at least 4 nights per week. During the second phase of the program, Rhonda collects the students’ “One Hour of Power” worksheets and distributes free books to every student. To date, Rhonda has collected more than 400 books for elementary students in her community. The “Ready…Set…Read!” Program culminates with a session of peer reading and awards ceremony.
The far reaching impact of Rhonda’s commitment to literacy is evident in her involvement with Arkansas Literacy Councils. Since 2005, Rhonda has worked on a team to raise more than $100,000 so that 51 literacy councils across the state of Arkansas can continue to provide free literacy training, English as a Second Language Instruction, and course materials for thousands of students every year. Rhonda has also served as the Children’s Committee Chairman for the Arkansas Literacy festival. In this capacity, Rhonda recruited authors, coordinated a “Lunch and Learn” workshop for literacy professionals, managed a team of volunteers, and assisted with a children’s literacy breakfast at the Clinton Presidential library.
Rhonda has partnered with the Clinton Foundation and the Central Arkansas Library System to coordinate an International Literacy Day Celebration. To celebrate the United Nations’ International Literacy Day, Rhonda organized a celebration of children’s programming, and a press conference attended by literacy professionals, politicians, advocates, and media guests.
In 2006, Rhonda shared her passion for literacy and education with underprivileged children in Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Burma, India, Egypt, Turkey, Croatia, and Spain on a 100 day journey around the world. Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity Orphanage in Chennai India, the Su Htoo Pan School for the Handicapped in Vietnam, and the Dalit Delta Center in Kancheepuram, are just a few of the grassroots service organizations to which Rhonda donated books, monies, school supplies and time.
Upon her return to the United States, Rhonda founded the “Read around the World!” international pen pal program. In her signature web-enhanced curriculum, third and fourth grade students learn about geography, world cultures, letter writing, and congressional advocacy by engaging in classroom-to-classroom pen-pal program with students in Uganda. Rhonda Allen’s service to literacy is the epitome of a shining light to her hometown, state, and in developing countries around the world.