Our Vision

An Oregon where all children can realize their full potential through reading.

Our Mission

To spark joy and opportunity through the magic of a shared book.

Our History

In 1991, a group of concerned business leaders led by Gov. Neil Goldschmidt came together to address the troublesome reality that Oregon’s children were routinely reading below grade level. SMART Reading’s unique model was developed, blending early childhood reading support, adult mentorship, and community engagement to positively impact literacy outcomes.

The program launched in 1992 in eight schools in two cities, serving 585 children.

Over the years, SMART Reading has steadily grown to become the state’s largest volunteer-driven nonprofit organization devoted to children’s literacy.

Since our inception, we have served more than 373,000 children and given away over 4 million books. More than 147,000 volunteers have logged 4.5 million hours reading with children across the state.

In 2016-17, SMART Reading celebrated our 25th anniversary with the publication of Oregon Reads Aloud, a collection of 25 read-aloud stories written and illustrated by Oregon authors and illustrators. Click here to learn more about Oregon Reads Aloud.

In 2021-22, SMART celebrated our 30th anniversary by commissioning murals themed around books and reading in communities across the state and convening two literacy summits focused on early literacy. To learn more, click here

In 2022, SMART also merged with the Children’s Book Bank, a Portland-based nonprofit founded in 2008 by Dani Swope, a parent and former teacher who wanted to ensure that her children’s books got into the hands of kids who might not otherwise have books of their own at home. She contacted a local Head Start program that was happy to receive her family’s books and took her kids on a field trip to deliver them. 

Within a week her phone was ringing off the hook with people looking for the “Book Lady” and asking to sign up for her “program.”  Clearly, the community had a need for books! Now a program of SMART Reading, the Children’s Book Bank continues its critical work re-homing gently used children’s books and ensuring kids have access to high-quality, diverse books. Read more about the Children’s Book Bank at SMART Reading here.