Ramona Johnson, CEO, and founder of Always Reading, has more than 30 years of experience in housing and community development. She has spent most of that time focused
on underserved populations and minority groups. In July 2004, Johnson was appointed by the Governor of Maryland to serve a five-year term on the Baltimore County Board of Education. In 2009, she received an appointment for a second five-year term but it’s Johnson’s devotion to helping children that resonates. She founded Always Reading, a nonprofit whose mission is to empower children with abundant knowledge through books. She noted that the organization has great concern with what children read, mainly when the topic is American history. “In particular,” Johnson asserted, “how Black history is and isn’t incorporated into the American story.”
At Always Reading, officials provide free books that expose children of color to many untold stories and books that haven’t received any exposure. “We highlight that African Americans are often overlooked. Famous people and others like Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Owens, and others,” Johnson said. “We search deep for these books, and we provide them all free.” The overall goal of Always Reading is to provide children in Title I schools with a variety of fiction and nonfiction books that portray a positive reflection of themselves and expose them to the rich history of African Americans, Johnson said.
Through generous donations from other nonprofits and partners of Always Reading, the books are provided free of charge, and they are new. “The books have never been touched, and there are no highlights or markers,” Johnson insisted. “You know the history of us. We typically have been given hand-me-downs, but these books are all new.”
Johnson noted that studies have revealed that children growing up in a home containing at least 80 books creates enormous benefits, such as building vocabulary, increasing comprehension, and better educational outcomes. She said Always Reading envisions that each child, especially African Americans and other children of color have an abundance of diverse books in the home.
“It should come as no surprise that children from low-income households have fewer books in the home and frequently fewer books in the school,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to get as many free books that expose and empower our children to a world that they may not otherwise know or understand. “Get them into the hands of children who need books the most.” To find more and how to donate, visit: www.AlwaysReading.org.