South Sound Reading Foundation History

The South Sound Reading Foundation began in response to the needs revealed by the national Children’s Reading Foundation. They had done extensive research about early childhood reading, comparing successful elementary reading to high school graduation rates. They came up with a goal that 90% of all students would be reading at grade level by third grade.

The National Children’s Reading Foundation encouraged local areas to adopt their own reading foundation to promote this goal. Thurston County and Mason County community members believed in the value of this work and wanted to see students in our area succeed. In 2001, we launched the South Sound Reading Foundation.

Since then, the South Sound Reading Foundation has established relationships with hundreds of agencies, corporate service partners and other organizations to bring books and literacy information to people who need it in Thurston and Mason counties and beyond. Our book van travels all over spreading the wonder and promise of reading with engaging story times, parent talks, and free books.



  • Founded to increase 3rd grade reading levels and high school graduation rates throughout the South Sound
  • Hired first Executive Director, Courtney Schrieve
  • North Thurston agreed to house SSRF


  • Secured the 2001 Chevy Cargo book van, donated by Olympia Auto Mall. Kiwanis and Rotary collectively paid for the wrap and maintenance with initial support, then annual through contributions from each club.
  • Secured a grant from United Way to bring on an AmeriCorps
  • Three programs were formalized:  Book Van, Books for Babies and Born to Read
  • Distributed just over 1100 books
  • Our Mascot Booker T. Bear joined the SSRF Family


  • Cindy Carey was hired as the second Executive Director
  • Cindy developed the Read to Me program


  • Jennifer Williamson Forster was hired as the third Executive Director
  • Jennifer formalized three program lines with supporting projects
    • Family Education (Family Education, Book for Babies, Born 2 Read)
    • Reading Engagement (Read 2 Me story times, and Book Talks for Teens
    • Books for Kids (Book Van and Book Boxes)
  • Transformed Books by the Bay from a volunteer recognition event into a fundraising event


  • 2010 demand for SSRF programming grew to support three AmeriCorps
  • Collaborated with over 60 partners agencies annually to serve the South Sound
  • Gave out over 26,000 books to South Sound children


  • Introduced Readers are Leaders fundraising breakfast
  • Joined National Reading Foundation’s grant to provide READY for Kindergarten in Mason, Grays Harbor, and Pacific Counties
  • Hired Emily Ecker as our READY Grant Manager
  • Championed by the NTPS Superintendent Raj Manhas, the school districts agreed to reinvest in the Reading Foundation at $0.50 per student.


  • With a capacity building grant from South Puget Sound Community Foundation, SSRF was able to hire its first Program Coordinator, Dylan Jilek (part time)
  • SSRF was awarded with the National Flagship Award, from the National Children’s Reading Foundation
  • The READY Grant closed, but SSRF was able to hire Emily Ecker as its first Development Director (part time)

2017 to 2018

  • 2017 SSRF outgrew its space and moved to the RMAC Annex on Sleater-Kinney in May 2017
  • 2018 SSRF said goodbye to Dylan and hello to its second Program Coordinator, Isaac Jennings
  • 2018 SSRF transformed its mission statement, adopted a new strategic plan, identified our organizational priorities and re-wrapped the van


  • SSRF said goodbye to Emily and welcomed it’s 2nd Development Director, Amanda Sipher
  • A small but mighty team of 6: 2 AmeriCorps, 1 VISTA, 1 Program Coordinator, 1 ED, 1 DD
  • Appreciated having 123 volunteers with over 7700 hours of service
  • Served over 62,000, that’s nearly 1200 a week!

2019-20 SSRF will focus on

  • Building its capacity and sustainability
  • Revisiting its purpose, program, and communities needs
  • Updating its logo and branding
  • Transforming SSRF for a strong future 2025 and beyond

Check out the services we've implemented to help achieve our mission.