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'Read Like Me' literarcy initiative takes top prize at Accelerate's 2021 competition

Sara Kidner is a CMSD principal aiming to improve literacy and promote teaching as a career field among young Black males

CLEVELAND — A literacy and role model initiative for young Black males was voted the winning pitch by a virtual audience last week at the seventh annual Accelerate: Citizens Make Change civic pitch competition presented by the Cleveland Leadership Center.

The winning pitch from Sara Kidner received a $5,000 grant for “Read Like Me.” 

"Read Like Me" aims to improve literacy among young Black males and promote teaching as a career field for Black males. 

RELATED: Cleveland literacy program helping inspire young Black males through reading

As a high school principal, and a new mother, Kidner says her inspiration is twofold.

"'Read Like Me' came about because I was working with my son, who is 15 months old, and trying to find literacy programs for him," she said. "And I found a lot of videos, and everyone in the videos looked exactly like me. No one looked like him. He's a Black male, as is his father, and it was really frustrating to not have that kind of role model for him."

Kidner's plan calls for high school students to become "reader leaders" who will be recruited and trained to work with elementary school students in grades 3-5 to improve their literacy outcomes. 

Kidner, of Cleveland, is also Principal of the John Marshall School of Civic and Business Leadership in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

"I actually interviewed a lot of my students about what they wanted to be when they grew up," Kidner said. "And I realized none of my male students at all wanted to be teachers, let alone Black male students."

RELATED: Making Cleveland a better place, one idea at a time

Kidner says, interest is all about relatability - seeing characters that look like them, or share similar experiences. 

"66 percent of students who are in the city of Cleveland are Black students. The students we serve, and the people who are serving them should be similar," Kidner said in her pitch. 

Kidner crafted "Read Like Me" to help fill the literacy gap for men of color. And her experience at Accelerate left her with a push to keep going.

"Being surrounded by other change-agents is a great part of Accelerate.... and listening to everyone else's speeches it really helps you to better understand how many people are working for change in this city."

Editor's note: the video in the player below is from a story published on March 2, 2021.