READ to RISE was founded in September 2013 by husband and wife team, Athol Williams and Taryn Lock.
Both Athol and Taryn are passionate about literacy, education and helping others.
Athol grew up in Westridge, Mitchells Plain (Cape Town, South Africa), so is very aware of the challenges that children face. Today, Athol is a businessman, philosopher and poet and attributes his success to reading and education. He holds degrees from some of the top universities in the world - MIT, London Business School and Harvard University. He is currently studying Political Theory at Oxford University. Athol has a personal library of 10,000 books and is a firm believer in the power and magic of reading. He is the living example of reading to rise.
Taryn was born and raised in Johannesburg (South Africa). She has an honours degree in Mathematics from WITS University and has worked in financial services many years as a strategy analyst. While Taryn was on sabbatical in Boston in 2012/2013, she tutored English to foreign students, and this was a life changing moment for her - working directly with individuals and helping them to read and speak English. When coming back to SA, she felt that she needed to do more - illiteracy is a huge problem in SA. Passionate about literacy and wanting to make a real difference in SA, Taryn quit her corporate job to start up READ to RISE with Athol. Taryn is the Executive Director of READ to RISE. She was one of Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2014 for her work in civil society through READ to RISE. She is also a 2018 Obama African Leader.
How was Oaky and the Sun born?
Three factors led to us publishing Oaky and the Sun. First, was the high cost of new children’s books. If we wanted children to own new books we needed to find a lower cost solution. Secondly, we wanted to ensure that children receive a high quality book. We found most books to be flimsy and poorly printed. Thirdly, and most importantly, we wanted a book with content that was uplifting and inspiring. So many children’s books encourage violence, anger and other inappropriate messages.
To achieve all three requirements, we decided to write and publish our own book. Athol wrote the book and Taryn did the illustrations. We have waived all royalties and earn nothing from the book. We have designed our in-classroom literacy session around the Oaky book which is a story about an acorn who is trying to find the right direction to grow. The story encourages Oaky to ignore what the wind is doing and rather to listen to the advice of the sun, which implores Oaky to grow upwards toward the bright light. It encourages us all, young and old, to stay true to our purpose. We printed 40 copies and on 18 September 2013 we visited a Grade 2 class at Meadowridge Primary School in Mitchells Plain. The children loved the book. The overwhelming reactions of the children inspired us to keep on spreading the story of Oaky and the Sun and hence READ to RISE was born.
Athol has personally contributed a lot of his own money into READ to RISE to fund books and operational costs, he is a Non-Executive Director. Taryn left corporate life to focus on setting up and running the non-profit organisation.
We decided to focus on Mitchells Plain as Athol and his family grew up in Westridge. Mitchells Plain has 47 primary schools. READ to RISE appointed Roscoe Williams (Athol's youngest brother) as Programme Manager for Mitchells Plain and Madeneya Bardien as the READ to RISE's Business Operations Manager.
In 2015, we decided to start a READ to RISE branch in Johannesburg to focus on primary schools in Soweto. Steve Tsakiris is the Programme Manager in Johannesburg. We work with 30 primary schools in Naledi and Zola in Soweto.
We currently have 8 books in the Oaky series.
As author and illustrator, we do not derive any financial benefit from funds raised from the distribution of Oaky books, whether funded by donations or book sales. Nor do we derive any financial benefit from any of the Read to Rise programmes that use the Oaky books. The author holds rights to the copyright of the Oaky books but has donated their full use to Read to Rise.
Co-Founders of non-profit organisation READ to RISE
Athol WIlliams and Taryn Lock.
First school visit in September 2015 at Meadowridge Primary School in Lentegeur, Mitchells Plain.
OAKY AND THE SUN is a inspiring story about an acorn who is searching for the right direction to grow - it's about finding your true purpose in life.