WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - A woman in Wake County, North Carolina is combining her love of horses and books to inspire children to read.
Caitlin Gooch, who goes by the nickname ‘The Black Cowgirl’ founded the non-profit Saddle Up and Read. She uses the platform to literally saddle up one of her family’s horses, pack up a trailer full of books, then visit children at libraries and classrooms all over North Carolina.
“I love horses, I’ve grown up around horses my entire life, but I wanted to share those experiences with children,” Gooch said. “I take my horses as an incentive to get kids reading.”
Gooch said she hatched the idea in 2017 when she noticed low literacy rates in the state. She created an incentive based program with a local library. As a prize for reading and checking out three books, children were invited to her family’s 89-acre farm in Wendell.
Since the start of the pandemic, farm visits have been put on hold. However, Gooch said she’s learned to make modifications to the Saddle Up and Read experience so that children are still able to get books while learning about horses.
“They are all excited,” Gooch said.” “They are in awe that either I have a horse with me or to hear that I have horses.”
While Saddle Up and Read promotes reading and riding among all youth, Gooch has a vested interest in the literary advancement of brown and Black children.
“They need to see this representation. They need to see it in books and they need to have their own books,” Gooch said.
The latest numbers from the state of North Carolina show that in 2019, 29 percent of Black third graders and 30 percent of Hispanic third graders scored college and career ready on the state’s reading test. Nearly 59 percent of North Carolina white third graders met the mark.
“I make sure I target those children in those neighborhoods,” Gooch said.
For information on how to support Saddle Up and Read, click here.