Saddle Up and Read! by Pam Crooks

Caitlin Gooch is no ordinary cowgirl.

Oh, sure.  She grew up on her father’s sprawling ranch.  She’s been riding horses since she was three years old.  She competes in relay race competitions.  She’s a mom, too.  Wife to a husband in the military.  And she homeschools her three children.

Not so unusual for a cowgirl, right?  But besides being a skilled horsewoman, Caitlin is an avid reader, and she grew concerned about the low literacy rate amongst Black children in her home state of North Carolina. So concerned she knew she had to do something about it.

She approached her local library and partnered with them to encourage young children to read.  The plan was that for every child who read three or more books a month, they could sign up to be entered into a drawing to visit Caitlin’s father’s horse farm.  There, the children were encouraged to read to the horses, and how cool is that?  Studies show that the animals are patient, non-judgmental, and most importantly, improve reading skills.

The plan took off, but it wasn’t long before Caitlin hit a roadblock.  Transportation to her father’s horse farm was challenging for the children and kept some of them from the coveted visit and reading sessions.

Undeterred, Caitlin decided to take her horses to the children.  Armed with donated books, she loaded up the horses and drove to elementary schools, child care centers, libraries, church youth groups, and other community events across North Carolina.

Closing the gap for illiterate children has become her passion, a goal she works on every day. She’s received praise and mentions from such super-stars as Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Clarkson and Brad Paisley.  She’s been featured in Vogue, CNN, and numerous major publications.  She’s written a coloring book illustrated and relatable to Black children, too.

While the pandemic kept her from visiting the children on her literacy quest, she used the time to concentrate on fundraising with a GoFundMe campaign to help her buy land to build an equestrian center and library.  Caitlin says “I believe building this space for them to be exposed to horses and providing books with characters who look like them will help push Saddle Up and Read to raise literacy rates in North Carolina.”

Nope. Not ordinary at all.  In fact, Caitlin is pretty darned amazing.

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To learn more about Caitlin and her work for literacy – https://www.saddleupandread.org/

Who do you admire that has made a difference in someone’s life, either through history or modern day?

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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but her newest releases are contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing. Stay up on the latest at www.pamcrooks.com

29 thoughts on “Saddle Up and Read! by Pam Crooks”

    • She sounds like a great friend to have, Denise. I often find that I’m a better person, too, when I surround myself with people I admire.

  1. WOW! Your need something done – ask a busy woman! Incredible. I was thinking the other day – Librarians. I don’t think they have any idea what a difference they make in lives.

    • “If you need something done, ask a busy woman” is one of my favorite sayings of all time because it’s TRUE!! Caitlin is juggling many balls in the air, but she gets things done – and GOOD things, too!

  2. As a teacher who has a master’s degree in the teaching of reading, I agree with Caitlin and am so glad she has this mission. We need more people like her.

    • I agree, Janice (and congrats on that Master’s Degree!). Can’t you just imagine the memories these children will always have about reading to a horse who is patiently standing there in his stall, listening to their every word? Makes me smile just thinking about it.

  3. I admire my grandfather, “Paw paw.” He is the kindest, most generous, most nonjudgemental person I have ever met. Plus he eats tons of Blue Bell ice cream! Every time I stay with him I leave a little bit better person.

  4. My aunt who is 92 yrs old and is an amazing women who always thinks of others first. She is in a retirement home, living on her own, but still finds the time to help those around her.

    • If I ever make it to 92 years of age, I hope I can be just as kind as her, Kathleen. That must be the reason God has given her such a long life – she has a purpose in helping people.

  5. How interesting, Pam. I love this amazing woman! We need a thousand more like her. The person I hugely admire is Michelle Obama. She has grace and humility and love for all even those who say hurtful things. She shines a spotlight on kids’ health and good nutrition. Kids need to be living a heathier lifestyle so they can grow into healthier adults. Michelle also focused on military families who so often get overlooked. Have a lovely day, Filly sister.

    • I remember Michelle’s gardens, Linda! I’d loved the idea as soon as I saw the news reports about them. I don’t recall another First Lady who focused on nutrition like she did.

  6. Hi Pam, I admire my 95 year old aunt Ruth. She was admonished and honored many years ago as North Dakota’s Woman of the Year. She worked hard raising her family of 6 children on their farm, and lived out her faith serving and blessing others. She is a phenomenal quilter too. She is my only living aunt and I call her often. She still makes fantastic orange rolls, pies, cakes, and doughnuts. What a gift she has been to me on my cancer journey. I’m blessed.

  7. Wow,what an amazing and generous lady she is, and all for the good of the children. I think all our first responders and all the people that are volunteers are very generous givers for the goodness sake of others. I think authors do a lot of good for our minds and for our souls. God Bless all the people who do good things especially when it comes from their hearts.

  8. Such an encouragement. I think of all Dolly Parton has done with sharing books to children to help them learn to read.

    • She’s a great mention, Debbie! I’ve read Dolly’s biography, and she was very poor growing up. How wonderful that she gives back to the children something she never had.

  9. Another vote for Dolly Parton. I was a children’s librarian in NE Tennessee and participated in promoting her Imagination Library Program. It is financed by local groups, but she is responsible for starting it, supporting it, and has a hand in selecting the books. Once the child is registered, they get a book every month until their 5th birthday. It is mailed directly to them which is exciting. How many children get mail every month? She has also done much to develop her home area causing an infusion of jobs and money in an area that really needed it.

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