Ryan, now 14, has been promoting local literacy since 2008, when he won the Bay Area's Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators Contest for his age group. Entrants submitted stories they had written and illustrated, and winners were selected for their creativity.
One of Ryan's friends entered the same contest, and took third place in the same age group despite his ADHD and dyslexia. According to Ryan, this success motivated his friend to devote more time to schoolwork. His friend's renewed interest in academics helped Ryan appreciate the importance of reading and writing in all young students' lives.
A member of Boy Scout Troop 149, Ryan focused his interest in the power of literacy toward attaining his reading merit badge by working with the Redwood City Public Library's Traveling Storytime program, starting at age 11. Ryan didn't stop when he earned his badge. He's continued working with Traveling Storytime for the past three years, volunteering to read books aloud to preschoolers in North Fair Oaks.
"I realized that I was the only one reading to them," says Ryan of the children he worked with, many of whom didn't own a single book.
Earlier this year, he created the Redwood City Youth Literacy Council as part of the Redwood City Library Foundation. He contacted six local high schools besides his own (St. Francis High School) and selected eight students to form the council, which recruits volunteers to help with literacy fairs, fundraisers and other events.
Ryan's latest effort, backed by the Youth Literacy Council, is a book drive from Oct. 1 to 15. People and organizations are invited to contribute new or gently used books for kids, ages 6 to 18.
A list of about 20 drop-off locations includes Woodside High School and Menlo School. Ryan's goal is to collect at least 3,000 books over the two-week drive. The books will be distributed to underprivileged kids through outreach programs run by the Redwood City Library Foundation.
Visit redwoodcitybookdrive.blogspot.com for a list of drop-off locations.