Read-alouds being conducted by the Blumenstein siblings and KidsRead2Kids volunteers.
Read-alouds being conducted by the Blumenstein siblings and KidsRead2Kids volunteers. (Courtesy of the Blumensteins)

To help bring that same level of understanding and acceptance to other kids with learning disabilities, the Blumenstein family developed the nonprofit KidsRead2Kids in 2015 as an outlet for custom learning materials, content and everyday inspiration.

Growing up, Alana Blumenstein didn’t understand why she and her younger brother, Jacob, were struggling in classes. Now 21, Blumenstein, who attends Oberlin College in Ohio, knows that they were navigating learning disabilities without knowing for many years. 

“We didn’t understand what learning disabilities were,” she recalls. “We had no idea.”

It wasn’t until high school that the Blumenstein siblings (which also include brothers Reuben and Benjamin) and their mother, Carol, realized that the kids simply had different learning needs.

From there, it was like a curtain was lifted.

“We saw that we had these differences, and we were able to embrace them,” Alana Blumenstein says. “We realized we had so many incredible resources.”

To help bring that same level of understanding and acceptance to other kids with learning disabilities, the Blumenstein family developed the nonprofit KidsRead2Kids in 2015 as an outlet for custom learning materials, content and everyday inspiration.

The idea initially got off the ground thanks to BBYO’s Building Entrepreneurship program, which Alana Blumenstein presented her idea to while in high school in a Shark Tank-like competition. There, she won $250 in seed money that would help create KidsRead2Kids.

“It’s an educational resource for kids with learning disabilities founded by kids with learning disabilities,” Alana Blumenstein explains. “We’re most passionate about providing a safe space for kids who feel daunted, alone and ashamed because they learn differently.”

Identifying Role Models

For many kids, it’s important to have someone relatable to look up to. That’s why KidsRead2Kids made it a mission to involve role models all over the world with learning disabilities, in addition to the Blumenstein siblings, who could be a part of the nonprofit. 

“We really tried to provide role models that kids can not only look up to, but also see themselves in,” Alana Blumenstein says. One role model, for example, is a boy from Iceland with autism who broke the world record for building the largest Titanic out of LEGOs.

“It’s very hard when you’re growing up with a learning disability,” she continues. “They’re not talked about very much. And we wanted to change that.”

Through the digital website, children and families can access read-alongs to classic novels, which come with custom lesson plans tailored for kids who have different learning needs. Read by other kids and young adults who have overcome learning disabilities to go on and achieve great things, the read-alongs serve as both educational resources and sources of inspiration.

Yet for Blumenstein, promoting reading and literacy was a personal, lifelong passion.

“Growing up, my dad used to always read to us,” she recalls. “Many kids with learning disabilities initially struggle [with reading], so by listening to these stories, we were able to learn how to appreciate reading and practice our active listening skills.”

Anne of Green Gables, in particular, is a book that Blumenstein loves and is one of the many read-along selections offered on the KidsRead2Kids website. “It’s my favorite book,” she says.

A New Form of Content

In addition to the lesson plans and read-alongs, Alana Blumenstein knew another component was necessary to round out the offerings provided by KidsRead2Kids: a free digital magazine.

With dozens of pages filled with articles, videos and crafts to empower kids to dream big, the KidsRead2Kids Magazine, launched in October 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a custom digital publication directly made by and for kids with learning disabilities.

“At that time, we were all home together,” Blumenstein recalls. “We thought a magazine would be a great opportunity to provide a [safe] space for kids and take our mission one step further.”

The free digital magazine features parent advice columns, spotlights of different career fields kids may be interested in and youth with learning disabilities making a difference around the world.

Eventually, Blumenstein hopes the magazine can one day become a print publication. She also wants to see learning materials from KidsRead2Kids distributed in schools and other places of education.

Creating Positive Change

The real-life impact of the website, she explains, encourages her and her family to keep the mission going strong. Now, the Blumenstein siblings — Alana, 21; Jacob, 19; Reuben, 15; and Benjamin, 24 — continue to work on inspiring kids around the world with learning disabilities.

“In one read-along, we have comments from parents saying that their kid would not pick up reading, that they hated reading,” Alana Blumenstein says. “They thought it was something that they could never enjoy.

“Then they would come across a read-along book like Anne of Green Gables,” she continues, “and they couldn’t stop reading chapter after chapter. That’s why we do it.”   

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