Culture

Meet The Woman Using Horses To Encourage Childhood Literacy

Meet The Woman Using Horses To Encourage Childhood Literacy

This is precisely what the world needs!

Caitlin Gooch, is the founder of Saddle Up and Read (SUAR), a nonprofit focusing on "encourag[ing] youth to achieve literary excellence through equine activities." It all started in 2017 when Gooch began thinking of a way to help increase the literacy rates in North Carolina. That's when she came up with the idea to provide children with a unique incentive to read. Partnering with a local library, Gooch came up with the notion to reward any child who checked out at least three books with a trip to visit her father's horse farm - that became the genesis for SUAR. 

"Horses connect people and get kids excited. Why not use that energy to encourage kids to read," a quote on her site reads.

Since then, Gooch has traveled all over North Carolina with her trailer in tow, visiting elementary schools, libraries, and community events. She gives books to children in need and allows them to pet and ride the horses. Her organization hosts farm reading sessions, allows youth to read to horses, and boasts a collection of Black equestrian literature. They educate children about Black equestrians' history, something Gooch said is near and dear to her heart. 

Recently, the Wendell, North Carolina native started a new initiative entitled the "Color & Learn series," releasing the Black Equestrian Coloring Book Volume One: The Trailblazers. The coloring book features 12 Black pioneers in the equestrian field and their accomplishments, it is the first in what Gooch hopes will be an ongoing series. 

"Black equestrian history will not be erased or forgotten. Thank you for all the love & support," she captioned a photo of herself with the recently published book on social media.

The SUAR founder has also launched a GoFundMe, aimed at raising $50,000 to purchase property to build an equestrian facility. Gooch hopes to build a library on the property and implement consistent literacy programs to close the literacy gap in North Carolina. She will also be using proceeds to purchase more books and bookshelves. So far, she has already raised more than $20,000 towards her cause.

"In my hometown, there is not much of anything for kids to do. Building this space for them to be exposed to horses, and provide books with characters who look like them, will [help] push SUAR to raise literacy rates in NC," Gooch wrote on the fundraising page. 

To learn more about the work SUAR is doing, visit their website at www.saddleupandread.org. You can also donate proceeds by clicking here.

Thank you for all the work you're going, Caitlin!

Photo Courtesy of Saddle Up and Read