Junior Launches Nonprofit to Help Young Readers

Concerned about Hawai‘i’s low literacy rates and inspired by his own passion for reading, Sascha Pakravan ’22 started the nonprofit Words4 to engage young elementary school children across Hawai‘i in reading. Pakravan believes that literacy empowers people to learn, communicate and have a better future, and that sparking the joy of reading in the younger generation will have the largest impact on improving literacy rates. 

Words4 founder Sascha Pakravan ’22 reads “Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse” for young readers

Pakravan’s Word4 website is a one-stop shop for reading resources, including a list of nearly 300 recommended books organized by reading level and continuously updated. Also on the website is a series of over 75 read-along videos for young readers, including non-native English speakers. The videos come at an appropriate time, when many children are learning from home during the pandemic.

“With the dire circumstances of this pandemic, we recognize that many students have lost access to literacy resources, such as books and guided reading,” Pakravan said. The videos are designed as an on-demand, comprehensive reading curriculum that sparks critical thinking.

To make the videos look and sound their best, Pakravan worked with Punahou alumnus Jamey Steiner ’04, owner of Honolulu Creative Media. The videos feature Pakravan and other Punahou students reading with emotion and encouraging viewers to to reflect on age-appropriate themes and questions. 

For the project, Pakravan is working with the Case Accelerator for Student Entrepreneurship through the Luke Center for Public Service and the Junior School Learning Commons. Pakravan also recruited guidance from the community. “I have had in-depth conversations with over 100 parents, and it has been beyond rewarding to see their happy reactions, constructive feedback, and their children’s enjoyment and engagement with our videos. Ultimately, I am delighted to see my project making a real change.”

Pakravan’s future plans include a book drive for understocked libraries and partnerships with other organizations, such as the Institute for Human Services. Pakravan is also working with Waikiki Elementary School to pilot a reading-buddy program which pairs high school students with young readers over Zoom. “We look forward to continuing to serve our community, and hopefully beyond,” he said.

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