Saddle Up and Read
Caitlin Gooch is an equestrian encouraging children to achieve literary excellenceBy Rue Reynold
Wendell native Caitlin Gooch has been surrounded by animals all her life thanks to her equestrian father who built a barn in 1989. She became the only one of five children to follow in his footsteps, riding horses from the age of three and being involved in equestrian communities as she grew up. Through a love of animals, she developed a passion for helping others.
Caitlin became invested in her community at an early age and later earned a sociology degree. While volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, Caitlin discovered literary deficiency cases in children growing at an alarming rate.
Having only a few horses and nothing else, Caitlin took the reins and worked from the ground up to make a change. That passion gave birth to Saddle Up and Read, a nonprofit that blends education, inspiration and interaction all in one to increase literacy in children with the assistance of horses.
Stirring up excitement
Children experience several rewarding activities that not only strive toward literary excellence, but can also help instill personal growth, responsibility and confidence.
All of Saddle Up and Read’s programs are free to attend and enjoy. Farm Reading Sessions at Caitlin’s farm are the most popular events. Children experience several rewarding activities that not only strive toward literary excellence, but can also help instill personal growth, responsibility and confidence. Activities include reading to horses, and grooming and interacting with the animals. At the end of the session, children can take home books they’ve grown fond of.
The Literary Outreach program is what started it all and continues to be an invaluable method to encourage literacy in children. If children check out three or more books at partnering libraries, they will be entered into a random drawing where winners are given a certificate to visit Caitlin’s farm to enjoy the full Farm Reading experience.
Saddle Up and Read isn’t restricted to library programs or the farm. Caitlin travels around to parks and neighborhoods with books in hand and her partner, Man-Man the miniature horse. Children drawn to the equestrian and her partner get their own personal Farm Reading experience by interacting with Man-Man as Caitlin excites their interest in reading with flash cards and a reading session. The children even get to take the books home.
Taking the reins
Saddle Up and Read’s humble background began with Caitlin personally requesting partnership with libraries, but now the nonprofit extends to schools, fully booked events and has an ongoing podcast, “The Story Stables.”
“I want people to know this is something they can do,” Caitlin says. “They can do whatever it is they feel their heart is telling them to do, whether it’s to change the world or change themselves.”
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