lit youth foundation
Lit Youth was established in 2021 by educator, Saranja Hicks, who had long dreamed of this idea that would allow her to impact the lives of young children in ways that are often limited by a school setting. Many students need instruction that is more adapted to meet the demands of who they are as individual learners, which usually requires a skilled approach towards figuring out each student’s current level of ability, then designing a comprehensive plan for moving them further along the learning continuum. Moreover, the process involves addressing knowledge gaps and barriers to deeper understanding, and requires time that most classroom teachers unfortunately just don’t have. However, through the Lit Youth Foundation, students are able to get the personalized attention to learning that will propel them forward on their journey towards more independent and higher levels of learning.
As an educator and mother of two sons, Saranja is also keenly aware of the disengagement with school that often happens, particularly with male students, and especially with Black boys. She, therefore, wanted to create opportunities for them to (re)engage, take ownership of their learning, and develop as leaders. Thus, the foundation was also born of the idea that by engaging boys of color, and specifically Black boys, in reading texts that are of high interest and relevancy to them, this “rebirth” and self-recognition of their inherent greatness would happen. Hence, the foundation’s B.L.A.C.K. Habits (Building Literacy and Activist Capacity in Kids’ Habits) Book Club came to be.
In essence, Lit Youth was established as a result of Saranja’s desire to empower children to recognize and embrace who they are, while also becoming who and what they want to be; and each program offering has been carefully designed with this purpose in mind.
Our literacy tutoring program provides intensive support through customized instruction that is designed to meet the needs of students who are performing below grade-level benchmarks in reading. This program particularly strengthens the comprehensive development of foundational skills in the areas of reading, writing, vocabulary, and phonology. Our other program, B.L.A.C.K. Habits (Building Literacy and Activist Capacity in Kids’ Habits) Book Club, is specifically designed for Black boys, ages 8–12, through which we aim to inspire a love of reading, develop the boys’ ability to read with a critical lens, and produce action-oriented learning through a high-quality, culturally relevant curriculum. Each cohort’s experience culminates in a community-based service project that is a direct result of their learning, which is conceived of and lead by the students.