What is REACH?

​Literacy Services for Thurston County and Beyond

Improving Lives through Literacy
At its core it is about empowerment to break the cycle of poverty. 

To achieve and maintain a future where all individuals have the knowledge, skills and opportunities needed to flourish in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. 

REACH for Literacy is a nonprofit based in Lacey, Washington with a mission of improving lives through literacy. At the request of clergy from St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, Clarkson created REACH in 2018 to address the literacy gap within North Thurston Public Schools, where nearly 40% of students fail to reach state standards and nearly 70 % qualify for freed and reduced lunches. 

In its first two years, REACH was run by volunteers as a summer program in rooms at St. Andrew’s church. The program targeted the ‘summer slump’, the lack of academic progress or even regression that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds often experience during the summer months due to a lack of resources or enrichment in their home environments. In 2018 and 2019, 25 students in grades 1-5 enrolled in the REACH program for free services designed to boost skills in phonics, reading comprehension and fluency. After reaching full capacity, an additional 20 students were placed on a waiting list. The program was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic but resumed in summer 2021.


Barbara is on a mission to transform lives through literacy education.  The Lacey resident and founder of the REACH (Reading Enhances All Choices for Humans) program, has big plans for a new non-profit literacy education center to be located on the campus of St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Lacey. 

REACH for Literacy was founded by education advocate A. Barbara Clarkson, known by her friends as Barbara. Barbara has a strong background in education and workforce development. In her more than 50-year career, she has overseen numerous nonprofit and state programs, including the Yakima Valley Opportunities Industrialization Center, an educational and employment training program that served 19 different state agencies, and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, where she served as a program specialist. Through her work with The Thurston Group of Washington State, she continues to champion access to higher education for African-American and underrepresented students, sending hundreds of youth from the Pacific Northwest to college with over $8 million in scholarships. 
For 14 years she served on the Board of Trustees at the South Puget Sound Community College and in 2018, the board passed a unanimous vote to recognize her tireless efforts to improve access to education for underserved students and increase equity by naming the campus Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Center (DEIC) in her honor.

Literacy Center Building Project
REACH currently serves K-5 students within the North Thurston Public Schools and beyond, but over time will expand to include older students, adults, military service members, veterans, and military spouses as well as serving as a workforce development site serving the literacy needs of local employers. Volunteers from St. Andrew’s provide one-on-one support, group activities, and mentorship. In the short-term, the goal is to collaborate with Saint Martin’s University and bring in Education students who will serve as interns. Eventually, the Center will be fully staffed by paid employees.

Exterior renderings for the proposed project designed by KMB architects. Architecture in the Community: Literacy Center
A June 26, 2019 post on the KMB Architects website.

What is the Literacy Center Building Project?
REACH is a community-based literacy program. The existing program is sustained by volunteers at minimal cost, with space donated by St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church. The mission of REACH is “to improve lives through literacy.”  Its core purpose is to sire empowerment to break the cycle of poverty. It was established in 2018 and currently provides a summer boost for grades K-5 in language, computers, and math.

Capital Campaign
In 2020, REACH launched a capital campaign to develop a literacy center on land provided by St. Andrews UMC. The $2.6 Million center will feature classrooms, offices, restrooms, laundry facility for homeless students, as well as a small commercial kitchen to provide meals and snacks. It will operate independently of St. Andrews with its own staff, volunteers, and oversight.

The Setting

The REACH Program is located at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church. The address is 540 School St SE, Tanglewilde, Washington. The Tanglewilde area is part of the Lacey Urban Growth Management Area, is in unincorporated Thurston County, and is a Census Designated Place (CDP.)

From the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) 2018-19 Report Card for local area

Only 26% of the children entering kindergarten are “ready” using the six basic measurements – Social-Emotional, Physical, Language, Cognitive, Literacy, and Math. Over 20% of the students missed more than two days of school each month. Less than half met grade-level standards for English and math, and less than 1/3 met science standards. Over 20% of the students had a disability. Over 5% were homeless. 72% were low-income, and 67% participated in free or reduced-price meals. The per capita income is 25,089.00. Sixteen point five percent of the population is below the poverty level.

Bottom Line – Return on Investment

Reading and vocabulary skills are strongly correlated with health, wellness, and success, and children’s early skills are linked to their economic backgrounds. The Tanglewilde community is a place where many children face economic challenges and daily hardships. These children and their families will benefit from The REACH program and the Literacy Center.

REACH brochure (PDF format)

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The REACH Program does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, gender expression, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. We are a welcoming and inclusive environment. We are an equal-opportunity employer.