Starting in 4th grade, schools expect students to transition from “learning to read” in the early grades to “reading to learn.” After 5th grade, students often receive little to no explicit reading instruction in their classrooms, and often teachers of this age group are not trained to teach reading skills. Students are expected to read and interpret texts in a variety of subject areas and genres, but often lack the skills to do so. When children who are behind their grade-level peers do not receive the instruction they need, they simply fall further and further behind. Students with poor literacy skills are twice as likely to drop out of school compared to their peers, and—as adults—are less likely to find employment and support a family. They are also more likely to require public assistance and are more likely to go to prison.

That’s why at READ 718 we provide individualized literacy instruction and mentorship to low-income students in grades 3-8 who are reading below grade level. Our after school program participants (READers) are in grades 3-8 and come from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The majority attend school in Brooklyn’s Districts 13 and 15, and come from many Brooklyn neighborhoods including Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, Sunset Park and Clinton Hill. Over 95% of our READers are eligible for free lunch at school.


Rai is a lifelong educator with a B.A. in Early Childhood Development from Spelman College.  She has taught in several school settings including private, public, charter, and parochial schools.  Rai earned her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and Gifted Education from Arizona State University in 2017.  Her passions include working with students in traditionally underserved communities, literacy development, and instructional coaching.  She initially came to Read 718 as a volunteer with the program and enjoyed her time immensely.  Rai lives in Brooklyn with her husband and five children.

Michael is the CEO and founder of New York based Mondo. For over 15 years, Michael has navigated many companies through complex technology implementations. With over 700 employees across the United States, Mondo assists Fortune 2000 companies with their IT and Marketing technology needs. Prior to starting Mondo, Michael co-founded Bluewolf, a global cloud consulting company. Michael currently sits on the boards of both Mondo and Bluewolf. Michael received a BA in English from the University of Georgia. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children.

Tad is a partner at Prince Street Capital, an emerging market asset management company. He has served on the boards of the National Theater Workshop of the Handicapped, Grand Street Settlement House, and Free Arts NYC. Tad has volunteered with J.U.M.P., a youth mentoring program, as well as with GMHC.Tad graduated with a BA in History from Beloit College. He currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and twin sons.

Sharon Wurtzel
Sharon brings more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit and public sector leadership roles focusing on expanding opportunity for low-income communities. She has spent her career developing innovative solutions to complex social problems and thrives in the creative space where policy and implementation meet. She co-founded and built a youth development agency in San Francisco widely regarded as a model in the social enterprise arena. There she launched and managed four for-profit businesses providing jobs and training opportunities to hundreds of at-risk youth. Later she managed the turnaround of a $100 million housing subsidy program as Assistant Commissioner of New York City’s housing agency and conceived and developed housing-linked employment and asset-building programs. She has been a consultant to numerous New York City nonprofit youth development, community development and education organizations focusing on organizational strategy and capacity building. She was the founding board chair of Generation Schools Network, a national education reform organization, and also serves on several other nonprofit and foundation boards. She earned a BA from Yale University and MBA and Certificate in Public Management from Stanford University. Sharon lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children and a fish named Yeti.


A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to and continues to support READ 718. Your donations make it possible for Brooklyn’s struggling young READers to not only continue to survive as readers, but thrive.

Anderson-Rogers Foundation
Astoria Bank
Con Edison
Deutsche Bank Matching Program
First Eagle Investment Management Foundation
Leon Fund II of the Community Foundation
William M. and Miriam F. Meehan Foundation
Plymouth Church Christian Help Committee
Reba Judith Sandler Foundation
Toys ‘R’ Us Children’s Fund
RLH Equity
Yelp Foundation

INDIVIDUAL 2017-2018

Janet Aitchison

Deidre Alexander

Lynne Allen in memory of Barbara Buchanan

Jay Amato

Sarah Axler

Victoria Baluk

Sallie Beaumont & Duncan Thomas

Hawes Bostic & Ambriel Floyd

Jenny Brearton

Alexis Broben

Stewart Burns

Rebecca Carter & Demetris Giannoulias

Dorothee Cates

Neely & Todd Cather

Ken Clinton

Dani Botterbusch Cole

Katherine Corbin de Mangoux in honor of Gail Farrell

Winn Coslick

Lauren Creiger

Doug Crowell & Laura Tucker

Alexandra Dadourian

Grace Dann

Rachel Dickinson

John Dixon

Victoria Doyle

Cheryl Effron

Linda Eigeman

Shannon Eliasson

Natalie & Tommy Emery

Chris Falcinelli & Ilise Wiener

Stuart Farr & Sarah James

Emily Fisher

Amy Fontaine

Jennifer Frantz

Michelle Freedman

Sara Gashti in honor of Ethan Robles

Judith Gehrke

John Geraci & Amanda Marchand

Angelique Gerrtisen

Godfrey Gill

Ilana Greenberg

Ivette Greenblatt & Andy Friedman

Nicole Gueron & Carter Strickland

Nina Guralnick

Reem Hadeed

Nina Hale

Colby Hall & Geraldine Hessler

Ethan & Ryan Hawke

David Herbstman & Karen Strassler

Cara Hill

Chris Huntington & Justine Simons

Tim Johnson in honor of Michael Kirven

to be continued…


As an English Language Arts teacher in a Brooklyn middle school, READ 718 founder Emily Kirven was faced with a particular challenge: many of her middle school students were reading far below grade level and her training as a secondary English teacher did not help her address these students’ needs.Frustrated by her inability to help these students efficiently and directly, and recognizing the problem as widespread, Emily returned to Teachers College, Columbia University to earn an MA and state certification as a Reading Specialist with the goal of gaining a better understanding of how to help struggling middle grade and adolescent readers.After graduating in 2013, Emily worked to develop and build READ 718, opening the reading center’s doors to the community in January 2015. Emily lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children.


Susannah was a founding board member of READ 718 and has served on the board since inception. In 2018, she joined the staff of READ 718 as Chief Operating Officer and Director of Development. Prior to joining READ 718, Susannah was Director of Finance at Malia Mills, a fashion company headquartered in Brooklyn, NY. Prior to her time at Malia Mills, Susannah spent 10 years working at Goldman Sachs in investment banking. Susannah graduated from Princeton University with BA in English Literature. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three daughters.

Eva Sandler grew up in New York City and began tutoring in reading when she was in first grade, spending her afters school hours teaching her stuffed animals the ABC’s. After graduating with a Bachelors degree in English and Art History from Kenyon College in Ohio, she returned to New York, where she attended graduate school at Bank Street College of Education. In 2012 Eva earned a Master’s degree in English Language Arts and Museum Education, focusing on out-of-school learning and program evaluation. During graduate school she began tutoring in reading and writing, and while she found the work to be tremendously rewarding, she was also frustrated by the lack of affordable services for low-income students. Eva is honored to work in partnership with READ 718 Founder, Emily Kirven and a community of dedicated literacy volunteers to give all students and families the support they need.

Alice fell in love with books the first time her mother read her The Bunny Planet, a book she made her read so many times that she practically has it memorized. To this day, Alice still carries a book in her purse wherever she goes, always looking for a spare second to read a few pages. Alice graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. Knowing that she wanted to become an English teacher so that she could share her love of literature with her students, Alice went on to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching Degree in Literature from Bard College and her English Language Arts Teaching Certification. During her student teaching internships, Alice realized how important it is for students to receive the support they need to feel successful and confident in school. She is proud to work with READ 718, an organization that provides that support and helps students succeed.


READ 718 volunteer literacy tutors are the heart of our program. Our tutors have a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, but all are committed to helping Brooklyn’s children improve their literacy skills and develop a love of reading. We are so grateful for their commitment and energy, and truly could not do our work without them. If you are interested in becoming a READ 718 tutor, contact us today.