CLEVELAND — This week on Education Station, we shine a spotlight on an already bright light in the community. Over the past 4 years, Chrishawndra Matthews has donated more than 100,000 free books to kids and adults throughout Cleveland, and 3News was there as she unveiled a new four-wheeled ally in her fight to increase literacy – courtesy of one of NBC’s biggest stars!
Back in 2017, Chrishawndra Matthews - or Chris - founded the non-profit Literacy in the H.O.O.D. when she couldn’t find an adequate reading program for her then 3-year-old son Derrick. “H.O.O.D.” stands for Helping Out Our Disenfranchised.
"It’s nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, in the inner city that I could take him to that’ll help me help him become a stronger reader," said Matthews.
Literacy in the HOOD has gained attention – featured on several national shows, including Kelly Clarkson back in August of 2020. And, true to her word during that broadcast, a generous gift from Clarkson helped Chris buy a bookmobile.
"Kelly Clarkson has blessed us with our van! I am so excited! This will be such a huge help getting everything we need to get to where it needs to go," said Matthews.
Chris picked up the van on Tuesday from Nick Mayer Lincoln in Mayfield Heights, and the dealership generously added in a free warranty. Chris got straight to work, filling the van with hundreds of books from the Cleveland Kids' Book Bank and driving it to its first destination – Dickens Elementary School in Cleveland.
Chris receives books from various sources. She houses all of them in her humidity-controlled basement, but she’s running out of room.
"It has outgrown me. I just live with books. They used to line the stairs; I've kept them outside when the weather's nice. I need a lot more space," says Matthews.
And with a recent $10,000 grant to buy even more books, Chris desperately needs to find a free or low-cost space to expand her non-profit and reach her goal.
"A bigger space will allow me to become a book pantry. Parents and caregivers can come to me for books, or to learn how to read with their children. After-school children can get homework help, learn how to fill out job applications and college applications. Right now it’s all crammed right here [in my basement]. No other choice," says Matthews.
Painstaking work. Tireless efforts. 100,000+ donated books and counting. And a new bookmobile to transport them where they need to go. Literacy in the H.O.O.D. hopes to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and bridge the urban achievement gap one student, one family, one book at a time.