July 15, 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

As members of the statewide Board of Directors of SMART Reading, we are committed to helping the organization fulfill its mission to spark joy and opportunity through the magic of a shared book. We’re writing to add our voices to those calling for change in the face of racial injustice that’s harmed our country for too long.

Collectively we wear many hats: we are parents and grandparents, business owners, community leaders, educators, volunteers, executives, and elected officials. We represent different ideologies, political parties, geographies, faiths, races and ethnicities. And while we come from various backgrounds and life experiences, we come together united in this truth: racial injustice hurts us all. It does grievous harm to the lives and futures of students of color and, therefore, it directly stands in the way of achieving SMART Reading’s mission.

SMART Reading was founded almost 30 years ago on the belief that reading is a critical gateway skill that paves the pathway for future success. Without it, kids are less likely to graduate high school, find employment, or successfully avoid other hardships like poverty, homelessness, hunger, and injustice. Alongside this core belief, we recognize the major role that race plays in the access children have to an equitable education and life opportunities overall.

We believe it’s our responsibility to not only acknowledge this cruel and unjust reality, but to also take action. As a Board, we’re committed to advancing racial equity for SMART Reading staff, volunteers, students, and our communities, and to examine these issues as a governing body. Over the past five years, we’ve been on a journey to implement more inclusive practices at SMART, which has included actions such as diversifying our book collection, creating more equitable hiring practices and removing unnecessary barriers to entry, and forming community partnerships to establish new programs that allow us to better serve marginalized communities and recruit a wider variety of volunteers. For more details on the steps we’ve taken, you can read SMART Reading’s Equity Report here.

We also want to share this statement from SMART Reading’s Executive Director, Chris Otis. We stand with Chris and the SMART staff team, and encourage you to read her message.

Thank you for your partnership in this critical work. With your help, we’ll realize our vision of an Oregon where all children can realize their full potential through reading.

Karin Holsinger, Chair

Hank Sigmon, Immediate Past Chair