By Sharanda Smith
After a layoff in 2008, I had suddenly found myself jobless, as a single mother, with the responsibility of a teenage son. I remember calling my father, distraught about having to figure out what to do next. Without any hesitation, he offered me a job in the publications division of the Sunday School Publishing Board, where he serves as Executive Director. Plus, my father, Dr. Kelly M. Smith Jr., was the one who had encouraged me to apply to Belmont (when he was on the Board of Directors there).
It was during the subsequent school year that my son was diagnosed with linguistic and phonetic reading problems. I discovered my mission and calling to help others while on the long and discouraging journey of trying to resolve my son’s issues. I quickly learned that there were many young black males suffering with reading disorders. I was set to become an encourager who helped others realize the fun and joy of reading.
During my lunch breaks, I started to volunteer as a reader with a program called Love Helps. There, I read to a kindergarten class at Tom Joy Elementary School. It was at this venue that my reading itch really began to set in.
Soon, I sought participation in other reading programs, such as the one at Belmont, Read with Me, and Read Me Week with Book ’em. I was so inspired by these not-for-profit organizations that I am now helping the Sunday School Publishing Board start a faith-based Black Family Day for Nashville. With the help of several African-American churches, we hope to provide dental checkups, police education, fitness, nutrition, tech training, and, of course, books