Promoting Literacy in HCPS
At Eco Brothers, Inc., we are proud of our division called read.repeat., which has collected and donated more than 170,000 books in 50 states and raised $60,000 for literacy in Florida. Read our story, below.
Kidpreneurs, Chase Hartman and Vance Tomasi started “read.repeat.” 6 years ago to get more than 100,000 books in the hands of those in need and to keep them out of landfills.
“Books help inspire kids to do great things, and great things help the world,” said Vance.
While many kids think of summer vacation as play time, then-fifth-grade friends Chase Hartman and Vance Tomasi hatched an entrepreneurial venture that is still serving their community and spreading their love of reading. After learning that some children in their community didn’t own their own books, they wanted to do something about it. At the same time, they realized people and businesses dispose of a vast number of new and used books every day. They set out to solve both problems simultaneously: get gently used books into the hands of those in need while encouraging reuse and reducing landfill waste. read.repeat. was born.
The boys recruited classmates, fellow Boy Scouts and their 4 little brothers to help with the task of collecting and sorting thousands of books into age-appropriate categories. They have built a website, set up distribution locations and make deliveries with the help of their moms. Two impactful deliveries included Sheehy Elementary School which suffered from a flood and lost classroom libraries and Lee Elementary School which burned down days after Hurricane Irma blew through Tampa. On both accounts, the boys distributed thousands of books to fill classroom libraries, so the schools could re-open and children would have the resources they needed to learn. Chase and Vance are on a mission to donate books to all 90 Title 1 Schools in their county.
“Only 1 in 300 kids in struggling areas own their own books and kids with books do better in school,” said Chase. “We get excited when students tell us they can’t wait to pick out a book of their own so they can read it, hold it and love it. They can’t believe they get to keep the books!”
Recently, read.repeat. was awarded a microgrant from KarmaforCara.org to purchase books-with-diversity. They coupled this donation with a GoFundMe fundraiser and were able to purchase 600 new books-with-diversity for Cleveland Elementary School. Days before summer break, they delivered 3000 used books along with the new books-with-diversity to 350 students for Summer Reading Packs.
Another location that has benefited from their project is the local VA Hospital. read.repeat. has donated over 3000 books directly to the James Haley Veteran’s Hospital and received guided tours, met servicemen and women, and learned that without their help the patients may not receive books as they get very few visitors and there’s not a bookstore onsite.
“We spoke to several men who served our country and lost their ability to walk due to spinal injuries. They thanked us for our service, and we thanked them for theirs! One man even said he started his military career as a Cub Scout like us!” said Chase.
The boys have been interviewed by Fox13, BayNews9, WFLA News Channel 8, CBS10, ABC Action News 6. They’ve spoken to two City Councils and were invited speakers representing local scouts’ service at the annual Distinguished Citizen Luncheon for the Greater Tampa Bay Area District of Boy Scouts of America. They also addressed their elementary school student body on the importance of volunteerism and the environment.
Nationally, Chase and Vance won the prestigious President’s Environmental Youth Award representing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 4 (Southeast). Chase also won the Prudential Spirit of the Community Award for the Middle School Division in Florida in 2017 and Vance went on to represent Florida in 2019 where he won the National Gold Medal. They were both awarded with Gold Level recognition for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, the Hillsborough County Youth Excellence and Achievement Award (YEA), the Hillsborough County Literacy Association’s Celebrate Literacy Award and the Barbara B. Hancock Literacy Award. They were named national finalists for the Charlotte Bacon Acts of Kindness Award given by the Newtown Kindness Organization and received a $1000 grant which they donated to the Greater Tampa Bay Area Boy Scout office for use on an environmental project at Camp Brorein. In 2018, Vance won the Tampa Bay Lightning/Lightning Foundation’s Hero of Tomorrow Award which awarded him a $25,000 college scholarship and a $25,000 grant for the Hillsborough County Public School System to provide books to the kids in the Summer Reading Camps. In October 2019, Chase was recognized with the Lightning Community Hero of Tomorrow Award and is working with Hillsborough County Public Schools to purchase Dual Language books for Title 1 elementary schools in Area 2 with a high percentage of children whose first language is Spanish in hopes of helping them increase their literacy skills.
The boys know they can #ShareABook, #SaveAForest and #ChangeALife all through their love of reading and generosity. More information is available at www.readrepeat.org. Follow them @readrepeatorg and Facebook at readrepeat.