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Meet Easton: Reading Owls founder and skillful forklift driver

"Finding the time to help shape the future of Reading Owls while working as a busy executive at Bain & Company, one of the world's leading management consultant firms, is not an easy task. Then, there is my beloved wife and kids," Easton adds, while chuckling. Yet, for someone like Easton who grew up in abject poverty, he knows the importance of giving back. This singular focus has forced him to create firm boundaries so he can focus his energies on the things that matter most to him. Helping to lead Reading Owls, a nonprofit on a mission to promote education and equity in Jamaica by providing access to books, is the most pressing issue for him.

"One of the best experiences in life is to see my kids completely lost in a book of their choosing, curled up or sitting in a warm, comfortable spot, enjoying a gripping story and expanding their knowledge of the world," says Easton. "Even as an adult, I am amazed and thrilled at the books that flow through Reading Owls to our recipient schools. There is such a vast array of stories, from the timeless classics to exciting modern stories, spanning a breathtaking range of cultures. The engrossing story lines are complemented by some of the most creative and beautiful artwork I’ve ever seen. I am delighted that we are privileged to be able to source these gems, and energize the eyes, imaginations and lives of kids when we open a lending library."

"I want that joy for all kids, especially the ones that are usually deprived due to socioeconomic disadvantages," he further added.

Speaking to Easton it is clear he has a deep passion for helping the disadvantaged and an acute sense of what's required to turn the tide. "We don’t build libraries to feel good about ourselves," says Easton. "We do it because we know what is at stake. Today, according to UNICEF, more than 25% of Jamaica's kids live in poverty and about 50% do not have a book or toy at home. Therefore, it is not hard to see that too many of our kids are on a journey to the bottom, without a structure of sustained educational development, growth and enjoyment. Our child-friendly libraries, with enviable high quality and culturally relevant books, strongly support educational development, wholesome fun and solid hope for lives with meaning and purpose."

There is still a lot of work to be done to effect systemic change and a paradigm shift throughout Jamaica, Easton notes. "In 2020 we will continue to build more libraries, do more local capacity-building, library evaluations, training and assessments. We are making an outsized impact, but there is so much more to do. Through Reading Owls, access to books has become a reality for thousands and hopefully, soon, tens of thousands of kids in Jamaica."

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