From a young age, 17-year-old Mackenzie Krestul has held a deep affection for reading.
“I absolutely love reading, I have since I was very young and I’m very, very passionate about it,” Krestul said.
But as she got older, the Canyon High School senior realized that several children do not have the same resources and opportunities she had as a young student.
“I realized that many kids are not as fortunate as I am to have an abundance of reading material at home,” she said. “Having print materials at home that is age appropriate is one of the biggest factors in literacy levels.”
This realization inspired Krestul to start the non-profit Code Read in May 2016 with her mother Amanda.
The non-profit organization brings books to children in low-income communities in an effort to help improve literacy levels, encourage a lifelong love of reading and close the achievement gap between students.
Instead of giving books away to children, students have the chance to earn “Book Bucks” to trade for new books when Krestul arrives on campus. Students can earn these book tickets throughout the month for good behavior and for completing classroom reading logs.
“We want the kids to treasure the books more than just if they were given to them freely so we decided to set up a system,” Krestul said. “We hope to be a foundation for a lifelong love of reading.”
Since its founding, Code Read has distributed about 6,000 books to three schools in the Palmdale School District, the organization’s first partner district.
“We are currently working with the Palmdale School District and we found out from the superintendent which schools are the most in need,” Krestul said. “We only go to Title 1 schools and we go to schools where over 90 percent of the kids are on free and reduced lunch and those are the type of schools we look to give books to.”
Most recently, on Oct. 26, Code Read donated books to Palm Tree Elementary School.
“At Palm Tree a ton of the kids gave me thank you cards and they were so sweet and so happy,” Krestul said. “It is by far one of the most important and valuable things that I feel I do with my time. It is so rewarding to see the kids at the book fair.”
During the rest of the 2017-18 school year, Code Read hopes to distribute another 4,000 books to at least three additional schools.
Krestul also hopes to expand the non-profit’s reach throughout Southern California before opening up a Code Read chapter in the college town she ends up in next year.
“It’s amazing to me to know that I’m making an impact on the lives of these children and hopefully influencing at least one person to love reading the rest of their lives and helping them achieve higher literacy levels because of it,” Krestul said.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_