Saddle Up and Read is a nonprofit based in North Carolina that encourages youth to achieve literary excellence through equine activities.
We provide books for children in need. Our horses are what incentivize youth to read.
Kids read more books when they have their own books. More importantly, they read more when the book characters look like them. Considering this and the literacy rates in America, I decided to create a program to fill a need. The need to encourage kids to read.
During our Black History Month Reading Tour, Saddle Up and Read scheduled a visit to a child care center. Typically we go anywhere there are kids, such as schools, church youth groups, after-school programs, or Girl Scout meetings. In one month, we would cover over 40 classrooms. I would like to share one of my favorite experiences. We travelled one hour to a child-care center in Greenville, North Carolina. We had no idea they had planned a western horse theme day at the center. The staff created a beautiful display of horse-related books at the front desk. Green paper cacti trailed the walls of the hallways. A western-theme photo frame was crafted from cardboard. The children wore cowboy boots and bandanas. Everyone looked the part. We even made cowboy hats together. It was an equestrian party, and Saddle Up and Read joining was the icing on the cake!
We brought a few books with us which featured Black equestrians. We normally bring these books, but it was important on this day because this facility’s staff and students are predominately Black. Representation matters. As we entered each classroom to read books, the children could barely sit still. They were excited to learn about Saddle Up and Read. We answered questions about horses, we showed them our helmets, and we named parts of a model horse. Having fun experiences like this is a great way to make it educational. My favorite part of the day is a moment I will always remember.
A 5-year-old girl, eyes full of light and wonder, said, “You are cowgirls just like the girl in the book. Just like me.” Please note, it is an honor to be able to show children of color the horse industry is for them too. This program ended with hobby horse races in their main hallway, which the staff also made from cardboard.