Saddle Up and Read: Black cowgirl inspires children to read

Caitlin Gooch says she was inspired by her state's poor child literacy rates

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Caitlin Gooch, 28, is the founder of the non-profit organization Saddle Up and Read (SUAR). Gooch rides on one of her family’s horses and delivers books to young children at elementary schools, libraries and youth groups to encourage reading.

The Wendell, North Carolina native says she was inspired by the state’s poor child literacy rate and has organized book drives and school-wide reading competitions according to CNN.

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“This means the world to me because nobody has been looking, nobody was really looking at the literacy rates,” Gooch, a mother to three girls, told CNN. “And that’s why I’m doing it. It’s low, and children are not reading at grade level.”

“Two-thirds of kids in America who aren’t reading proficiently in fourth grade will end up on welfare or in jail,” according to the Saddle Up and Read’s website.

According to the North Carolina Nation’s Report Card, 36 percent of fourth graders performed at or above proficient level in 2019, down by three percent in 2017.

On Dec. 5, Gooch shared her organization’s story on Twitter. The post garnered more than 30,000 retweets and 70,000 likes, and received the support of Oprah Winfrey.

“I think what you’re doing is great: getting kids to fall in love with reading (and horses),” Winfrey tweeted.

In 2017, Gooch was working at a daycare center when she noticed that many young children were struggling to read. She collaborated with a local library to start a contest: any student who checked out three or more books was entered in a raffle. Five students would then be chosen to visit her horses on the Gooch family farm.

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She has raised more than $20,000 from supporters so far on her Go Fund Me fundraiser out of the $50,000 goal, co-hosts a podcast about Black equestrianship, and released a coloring book.

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Gooch shared her story on Twitter to get her organization off the ground.

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