Caitlin Gooch is the founder of Saddle Up and Read, a North Carolina-based organization that encourages youth to read through equine books and activities. Gooch founded SUAR in 2017. She was working in childcare at the time and saw kids struggling to read. This prompted her to research literacy rates and found Black students are more likely to have lower literacy rates than their white peers. It was her goal to get kids reading more, which positively affects those rates.
Hi, I’m Gooch.— goochie (@theblackcowgirl) December 5, 2020
See that truck and trailer? I drive it to different communities to give books to children in need. Oh and I bring my horse with me.
RT so I can get the word out. I’m in N.C. pic.twitter.com/ZMSHB5dzJW
Keeping with the equestrian theme, Gooch – who goes by @theblackcowgirl on Twitter – and SUAR’s supporters have created an entire library of books that feature Black equestrians. The reason being that children are more likely to read when they see themselves represented in stories.
Caitlin Gooch— goochie (@theblackcowgirl) December 8, 2020
The Black Cowgirl
I chose this stage name years ago.
It has nothing to do with being a cowgirl. I don’t chase cows. We don’t even have cows.
Cowgirl is a more common term than equestrian when it comes to kids. Well and non horsey ppl. (Pics taken Pre-Covid) pic.twitter.com/bWXNOnKnXK
The organization assists schools, libraries, youth groups and Pre-K classrooms to build literacy skills and increase the number of grade-level readers.
To further encourage children to read, there are raffles, reading tours, and an opportunity for families to visit a horse farm and read to the horses. Gooch also has plans to conduct research on how reading to horses can help literacy skills.
I present to you the start of the Color & Learn series— goochie (@theblackcowgirl) December 6, 2020
Black Equestrian Coloring Book
Volume One: The Trailblazers
Black equestrian history will not be erased or forgotten. Thank you for al the love & support.
Gooch has been around horses her entire life, going for her first ride at three years old. She grew up taking care of horses and currently teaches horseback riding lessons on weekends.
Horses are also keeping SUAR sustainable. Gooch worked with a volunteer to make book drop-offs more sustainable using old horse feed bags.
Diane is an amazing volunteer. She makes these tote bags by hand. We saved old horse feed bags. People have dropped off theirs for us too.— goochie (@theblackcowgirl) December 7, 2020
I don’t want to result to using paper bags for book pick ups. But that’s what it looks like will be best for now. #Upcycled pic.twitter.com/sHMTG8tz1a
In January, Gooch set up a GoFundMe account for the organization. So far, it has raised $21,054 of its $50,000 goal. Since the fundraiser launched, Gooch was able to purchase a truck and trailer. The ultimate goal is for SUAR to purchase its own property and build an equestrian youth facility.
The fundraiser goes on to say:
“We will build a library on the property and implement our literacy programs to aide in closing the literacy gap. In my hometown, there is not much of anything for kids to do. Building this space for them to be exposed to horses, provide books with characters who look like them, and will push Saddle Up and Read to raise literacy rates in NC.”
The organization is also in need of literacy materials, books, and shelves.