By his own admission, Paul Thiebaut III was a high school drop out headed in the wrong direction. “I was hanging around some pretty disreputable characters,” he recalls. “But, then something clicked inside me. I realized that I was going to have a lot of problems if I continued down the road I was heading. I severed relationships with my friends and enrolled in community college.”
He was 23 at the time. He also started reading books for pleasure for the first time in his life. After graduating from San Jose State University, he worked as a private tutor.
Both the tutoring and his taste of life on the street eventually caused him to found the non-profit 10 Books A Home with the goal of “closing the achievement gap in the living room by providing early literary and mentoring support to under-served families.”
“We offer a two-year program to children living in East Menlo and East Palo Alto,” he explains, sitting in his part-time office, Cafe Zoe in Menlo Park. “The first time we meet with the children, who are ages three and four, each child gets 10 books, hence our name. They then get another two books a month, selected based on what they are interested in. We use the books as a learning tool — how to sit still and focus when someone is reading to you, how to ask questions based on what you’ve just heard — those types of skills.
“We also offer ‘first teacher classes’ to the children’s parents. The goal is to align what the children are learning with skills that help the parents get their children ready for school. Everything we do is based on programs that have been proven to promote academic success.”
10 Books A Home is still very much in start-up mode, and Paul says monetary donations are what helps most, as the organization can then provide more school readiness kits and other program materials. He’s also interested in expanding his group of volunteers who provide weekly mentoring with the children.
“If people do nothing else, they can go to our website or Facebook page and ‘like’ us,” he says. “That’s also where you can read stories about our volunteers and what they’ve accomplished with their learners.”
Photo by Scott R. Kline