Local Sylvanian wants you to Read for Literacy

–by Mary Helen Darah

Executive Director and CPO at Read for Literacy, Jeanette Hrovatich, wants everyone to say ‘I can read.’

Sylvanian Jeanette Hrovatich has spent her entire career focused on nonprofits and children. “I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo in education. That education component led me to the nonprofit world,” she recalled. Hrovatich’s first job was serving as manager at the Ronald McDonald House. She has been a woman on a mission ever since. “The reason I love nonprofit management is that you can have fun, meet a wide range of people, and every day a new challenge awaits me,” stated Hrovatich. “At the end of the day, you can say ‘because we did this work today, we made a difference.’ That is the motivator of the work I have done and it is now what I do for Read for Literacy and Claire’s Day.”

Read for Literacy and Claire’s Day are designed to provide programming for kids, adults and families. Hrovatich currently serves as executive director and CPO at Read for Literacy, Inc. and has again found a worthy cause in which to make a difference. “In our community, there are 39,000 adults reading under fourth grade level,” she stated. “As they have struggled, so have their children and their families. Our goal is to provide quality programming. We work in partnership with other organizations including the Sylvania United Church of Christ, located on Erie Street. We invited non-English speaking adults to come and work on bettering their English skills and orchestrated a program for their children called Creating Young Leaders to prepare them for kindergarten. The program is creating family readers. It is wonderful to have men and women volunteers who have never been exposed to refugees or Muslim religions in a safe environment, under one roof, and learning together. That is what I love about Read for Literacy. We can think creatively and meet our students on their terms. Some meet at libraries, some meet at churches and we are in 16 school buildings. We had over 3,000 students last year in various programs with the help of over 1,412 volunteers.”

Read for Literacy has four signature lines of service that include programs for adults and children, a literacy outreach program and Claire’s Day, named in memory of Claire Lynsey Rubini. For the past 16 years Claire’s Day was an independent nonprofit. In 2015, Read for Literacy and Claire’s Day merged. “We felt we could do more work together than separately,” explained Hrovatich. “Although we kept our own identities, we work side by side. The merger expanded our opportunities. For example, there are now over 43 school systems, including Sylvania schools, that participate in the Claire Awards. The Claire Awards honor children who are struggling. It is not the best and the brightest children we honor but those children who have worked hard to better their literacy skills. This year we will be honoring over 1,000 children. We are hoping to have more Claire’s Day programs in other communities.”

Each year Hrovatich and her team of literary lovers try to add a new school. “We have to be very strategic. We don’t have a big staff. We have five full-time bodies,” she stated. “The way that we are successful is through our volunteers. We can always use volunteers to work with adults, children or even in the library for an hour. The more we can expose children to adults who love reading, the more they will love to read. Once kids gain confidence in reading, things change for them in the classroom and they find a greater gift of success.”

The organization also depends on the generosity of others. “All of our efforts are done by fundraising, special events and grants,” she stated. “We have fantastic support from our community. We are a United Way affiliate program and use no government dollars.”

The woman on a mission has a vision for the future. She stated, “The hope for Read for Literacy is that every child is kindergarten ready and that one day children don’t have to struggle as readers. I truly believe that if you have a joy of reading, whether it be on the computer, a book, or any other way you gather your information, we want people to say, ‘I can do that. I can read’.”