Looking Back and Leaping Forward with Brandi Stewart

Let’s celebrate 4 years of Brandi and Read Better Be Better!

 

Read Better Be Better (RBBB) sat down with Program Coach Brandi Stewart to talk about what she has learned in her 4 years of working with us! Keeping reading to learn more…

Tell us about your role and your background. 

“I have been a Program Coach for 4 years and a Children’s Book Buyer at Changing Hands Bookstore for 14 years. I think I was born a reader. I can’t remember a time when books were not part of my life. My mom read to my sisters and I when we were children and I just kept going. I wasn’t a fast reader, but I had a vivid imagination and books just came alive in my head. I’ve always wanted to share this with people.”

“So, when I was 15, I decided I wanted to own a bookstore. Well, I don’t own a bookstore but I did find out that you can buy books for one. This is a job that you can get paid to do! Basically, I get paid to read. And at Read Better Be Better, I get to help kids improve their reading so that they might get paid to read when they get older too! Or a career that gives them just as much joy.”

Do you remember your first day on site? 

“On my first day on site, I was very nervous. I had never taught a class before and despite being told that didn’t matter, I couldn’t help but feel like that would have made me feel more capable. But I put that aside and just followed my training and it ended up being a great day.”

How has your “why RBBB” evolved since you began your role? 

“The ‘why RBBB’ question has always been hard for me to put into words—still, after 4 years. Because it isn’t just one word to write on a sign, it’s so much more than what can fit onto a sign. When I first heard about RBBB, I was elated. I finally found a cause that I really wanted to get behind. Reading is so important in my life and to be able to give kids the chance to feel confident in reading and to help to give them the tools they need to succeed is everything. I am so grateful to be here and to be a small part of a program that makes such a big difference.”

How was RBBB evolved since you began your role? 

“The great thing about staying around for a few years is getting to see an organization grow. RBBB is constantly looking for ways to reach out to kids. This past year especially, I think we’ve learned even more than ever. I’ve been so impressed with everyone’s willingness to stay positive and be flexible. Seeing how RBBB was able to modify the program for families to participate at home was inspiring. It is wonderful how much more awareness I feel we were able to get just from this time we’ve had to work with families directly.”

What achievement, success, or project are you most proud of from the past four years? 

“Being part of the EDI committee. Last year I helped in the selection of new curriculum books—it was fascinating and a pure joy. I have made a career in books and being able to lend my expertise and learn from the other committee members was very rewarding. I now have a deeper understanding of the care that goes into our curriculum to ensure our students feel connected and seen.”

Brandi smiling with studentsIf you could go back in time to your first week at RBBB, what would you say to yourself? What advice would you give? 

“’You can do it!’ I would reassure myself that it’s okay to find your own path but be consistent. I spent my first year trying out new things constantly because they didn’t work out the first time. I eventually learned that kids like consistency and you have to give them time to respond. Of course, saying that, it’s also good to be aware of when something isn’t working and when it’s actually a good time to change tactics. This can be overwhelming, but it’s okay because it’s good to learn new things. And, besides, the kids will surprise you and let you know in their own way that you really are doing so much better than you think you are.”

What is your greatest hope for your upcoming years at RBBB?

“My greatest hope is to continue to do what I can to make a difference for our students. To be someone they can rely on and to help RBBB grow so even more communities can benefit from our programs.”

If you—or someone you know—are passionate about literacy and learning, enjoy working with elementary and middle school students, and/or want to make a difference in your community, please use the link below to learn more and apply!