Rohan and Anya Satija were just 10 and 8, respectively, when their family moved across the world from New Zealand to Austin, Texas, in 2017. Experiencing cultural barriers and feelings of isolation, the brother-sister duo both found solace in books as they adapted to their new life in the U.S.
Now, six years later, they’re making sure other young people in their community have access to books, so they too can find the joy in reading.
The idea first came to Rohan when he was doing a project on inequities in his area for a middle school social studies class.
“I started researching book deserts, or areas where students don’t have access to books of their own, in Central Texas, and I noticed that many counties and a shocking amount of students don’t have access to these books that have provided me with so much comfort,” the 15-year-old told Nice News. “That really stuck with me and I wanted to make a change.”
He consulted his sister, now 14, and the two decided to start fundraising to buy books for kids. They began in 2018 with a lemonade stand, followed by a book drive at their local elementary school. Today, their nonprofit, the Let’s Learn Foundation, benefits children in about a dozen school districts, and has donated more than 25,000 books to K-12 students.
The organization’s flagship event is the Christmas Book Drive, which involves collecting books and individually wrapping them with cards, bookmarks, and other personalized details. Volunteers then head to local elementary schools to deliver a book to each and every student to mark the holiday season.
“That’s the part of Let’s Learn that motivates me to keep going and really emphasizes the importance of our cause to me, because I love seeing [smiles] on children’s faces when they receive books,” Rohan said of the drive. “That’s what pushes me.”
The first Christmas Book Drive benefited just one elementary school, but this year he said there are enough materials to hit eight or nine. They’ll deliver the gifts in mid-December, something Rohan said he’s especially looking forward to.
“I try to make sure to talk to as many kids as possible so that I’m really developing a connection with them,” he shared.
In addition to distributing books and educational materials, Rohan and Anya have partnered with other charitable organizations like the mental health nonprofit Active Minds.
Through that collaboration, Let’s Learn is working to create a mental health-themed bookmark and mental health education kits that will be donated to middle schoolers. And if that wasn’t enough, the impressive teens are also working on a children’s book centered on one of their other shared passions, theater.
Click here to support the Let’s Learn Foundation through Nice News’ December Cause of the Month.