When Jacob and Alana Blumenstein were stuck at home during the pandemic, they used their time to help others.
There is an old saying: If you want to be happy, help someone else. Studies have shown that there are psychological and physiological benefits of helping others. Whey you focus on the needs of others, you build resilience. That’s what Jacob and Alana Blumenstein of KidsRead2Kids did. For one 72-hour sprint, they created lesson plans for parents and kids stuck at home during the pandemic.
Jacob is a high school senior. He should be planning for senior prom and graduation.
Alana is a Creative Writing major at Oberlin College. In March, she focused on homework and upcoming exams.
Then the world changed.
Alana and her mother received an email from Oberlin College. They had two days to move Alana from the campus. Jacob and their mother went into action. They drove straight to Oberlin to pick up Alana.
On the long drive home from college, Jacob and Alana chose not to focus on themselves, but how they can help others.
Alana and Jacob took an inventory of the tools available to them. They are co-founders of KidsRead2Kids. “We are kids who read aloud abridged versions of great classic novels to instill a love of reading and learning.”
They thought about their customers, kids and parents stuck at home trying to learn during this difficult time. They settled on the idea of creating a lesson plan, starting with the book Peter Pan. The lesson plans contain critical thinking questions, chapter recap quizzes, and puzzles. “Our goal is to help you continue to learn during these tough times.”
In a wild 72-hour sprint, they listened to the book Peter Pan. They created vocabulary builders, listening comprehension questions, and creative writing prompts.
The Story of KidsRead2Kids
This wasn’t the first setback that the Blumenstein family had faced. Jacob has dyslexia. He didn’t learn to read until the fourth grade. “I remember, when the teacher asked me to read in the third grade,” Jacob says, “I raised my hand and asked to go to the bathroom.”
He didn’t find the support he needed in his school. “My teaches called me stupid and lazy,” he admits. “As one does, I listened to my teachers. My self-confidence dropped.”
In the fifth grade, Jacob was diagnosed with dyslexia. He moved to a new school with specialized resources. “I was introduced to assistive technology,” Jacob says. “I was given a lot of encouragement and support. I worked hard. By ninth grade, I was getting straight A’s in school.”
His sister Alana admits that it was difficult to watch her brother struggle. And yet, his transformation inspired her. “We realized that Jacob is not alone in his struggles. There are so many other kids just like him.”
“I was fortunate that I had support systems,” Jacob says. “When I didn’t believe in myself, I had parents that believed in me.”
So, at the ages of fifteen and seventeen, Jacob and Alana, along with their brother Reuben launched the nonprofit, KidsRead2Kids. They provide video-audio books, read chapter-by-chapter to help struggling kids learn to read. Studies show that listening to books is the most important activity to build skills for reading success. KidsRead2Kids uses real kids and real voices.
Alan explains, “We focused on two areas. First, we wanted to raise awareness of learning differences. We wanted to bring the joy back to learning. We also wanted to focus on their self-esteem. So many people who are struggling feel that they are alone.”
Jacob found that he has a passion for business, technology, and songwriting. He created the original music for KidsRead2Kids.
Alana discovered that she has a passion for entrepreneurship, social change, and telling stories that matter. She is one of the readers and the writer. Alana writes copy, kid-friendly blogs, and grant applications. This year, she also reported for SEEN Magazine, where she wrote over 30 stories.
“We have gained viewership worldwide,” Jacob says. “We won a Parents’ Choice award and the 2018 Digital Media of the Year Award for Top Educational Website.”
Jacob emphasizes that there are gifts in different learning styles. “You are not defined by your limitations. Everyone has the potential for greatness — dyslexic or not. I felt like I was stupid because of my dyslexia when, in reality, it has given me so many gifts.”
Studies on the Benefits of Giving to Others:
- Baranik, L., Morrison, A., & Eby, L. T. (2009). Whats in it for me? Giving versus receiving workplace help. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi: 10.1037/e518422013-264
- Inagaki, T. K., Haltom, K. E. B., Suzuki, S., Jevtic, I., Hornstein, E., Bower, J. E., & Eisenberger, N. I. (2016). The Neurobiology of Giving Versus Receiving Support. Psychosomatic Medicine, 78(4), 443–453. doi: 10.1097/psy.0000000000000302
- Watson, S. (2013, June 26). Volunteering may be good for body and mind. Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind-201306266428