Your Neighbor: Meet Nikki Francis and Amy Lawson

Published 12:05 am Thursday, March 7, 2024

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By Mandy Haggerson

For the Clemmons Courier

One of the greatest benefits of having a really good friend is that they will entertain your ideas regardless of the effort and energy they might require. That was true for Nikki Francis when she approached her college friend, Amy Lawson, about a way to spark a love for literacy in Forsyth County. Having served as a teacher, Francis saw first-hand children’s desire and love for books.

“When I was in graduate school at Salem College, I had learned about the psychology behind children’s learning,” Francis said. “It was absolutely fascinating to me and influenced my changing my career focus from planning to work in radio to wanting to be in a classroom.”

While Francis loved working in a classroom setting, especially knowing the influence teachers can have on children’s love for literature, as she experienced herself from her 10th-grade teacher, David Priddy, she thought there was another way she could be of help to her community. Fueled by her passion for literacy, Francis left her teaching job and created Reading Revolution with Lawson.

“We immediately went into brainstorming mode about how to touch as many people as possible, build a collection of books for the kids, and find families that would want to utilize them,” Francis said. “We reached out to H.O.P.E. of Winston-Salem and asked if we could join them on their weekend routes when they provided children lunches. Our goal was to also offer them books to choose from in addition to their meal.”

Lawson and Francis enlisted the help of their children, Palmer (sophomore in high school) and Henry (8th grade), to facilitate this new project.

“The kids were so eager to help, make a difference, and implement ideas to maximize how many options and resources we could provide,” Francis said. “Amy and I were really proud of them for bringing their own ideas and energy to the table to try and make it a success.”

Francis and Lawson realized very quickly that what had started as a hopeful idea was becoming something even bigger.

“We became a non-profit in October of 2023,” Francis said. “We had started off with only 100 books and now have over 1,000 from friends, family, community members, and people who know that putting books in these children’s hands can brighten their day. Despite the craze for technology these days, kids still want to read and hold a book.”

With the goal of serving more in the community, Lawson and Francis continue to drop off books behind the H.O.P.E. truck as much as possible.

“We’ve started offering games and puzzles too for the kids, and to see them weigh all their options and know that they can keep what they’ve selected is so rewarding,” Francis said. “With the help of Palmer and Henry, Amy and I have realized that there is a great opportunity to partner with preschools and daycares, too. Our plan is to do a story time and then follow it up with a free book fair so the kids can pick out exactly what they want. We want them to love reading, building their vocabularies, and having access to the resources to make that possible. Equal access to literacy is very important, and if we can help make that possible, we’ll do everything we can to make that available in our community.”

As the Reading Revolution continues to expand, Lawson and Francis are open to ideas and suggestions where they can bring their resources to those in the community who need them most.

“This past Tuesday, we hosted a story-time at Dog-Eared Coffee Company in Lewisville. If you brought in a book, you received 15 percent off your purchase. Having support from local small business owners is really meaningful, too. It also gives us an opportunity to spread the word about what we’re trying to do so we can reach even more,” Francis said. “Amy, Palmer, Henry, and I have no limits as to what we want to accomplish for the kids in our community. We’re excited to see where we can take it in 2024.”

If you are interested in donating a book, puzzle, or game to the Reading Revolution, the following locations will be accepting your charitable contribution: Forsyth Country Day School, Knollwood Baptist Church Wellness Center, Mt. Tabor Barber & Style Shop, Pretty is as Pretty Does, Salem Montessori School, Sherwood Forest Elementary School, Speas Global Academy, the Children’s Clinic of Winston-Salem, and Whitaker Elementary School.