Alana Blumenstein

Alana Blumenstein Challenges the Stigma Surrounding Learning Disabilities

July 27, 2018

With her two younger brothers, Alana Blumenstein founded KidsRead2Kids, an organization that helps kids with learning disabilities learn to read.

By Eden Lichterman

Photography by Boswell Hardwick

From adolescence to adulthood, coping with a learning disability is a challenge. As Alana Blumenstein watched her younger brother Jacob struggle to read in his early school years, she knew she wanted to create an outlet for people facing similar obstacles. Jacob was ultimately diagnosed with dyslexia and offered resources, but for many years, he felt alone and ashamed.

Alana, 18, along with her brothers Jacob, 16, and Reuben, 12, founded KidsRead2Kids.com, where users can watch videos of the Blumensteins and other volunteers reading abridged classic novels, like “Anne of Green Gables,” chapter by chapter. Users can watch the videos for free at their own pace, allowing them to actively listen.

“We wanted to reintroduce those classic stories but in a more fun, un-stressful, friendly way,” Alana says.

Alana BlumensteinCourtesy Blumenstein family

Alana Blumenstein reads “Peter Pan” to her youngest brother Reuben Blumenstein.

During her sophomore and junior years at Detroit Country Day School, Alana participated in a B’nai B’rith Youth Organization entrepreneurship program that teaches high school girls how to start businesses. The experience included a “Shark Tank”-like competition, where participants proposed business plans. Alana’s KidsRead2Kids proposal won, and she officially founded the nonprofit in June 2017.

The Blumenstein siblings hope to show kids and adults with learning disabilities they are not alone and there are resources for them. “I’ve always thought about being a good role model and helping others, and I love that I get to do that for an even bigger audience now,” Alana says.

The team of readers includes high school students from diverse backgrounds, some of whom have also overcome learning disabilities. “We wanted to show kids who struggle that there are kids like them,” Alana says.

Alana BlumensteinCourtesy Blumenstein family

Alana and Jacob Blumenstein hold classic abridged novels with KidsRead2Kids readers.

This past December, KidsRead2Kids, with a grant from the nonprofit Youth Service America and Disney, sponsored a “Let’s Love Reading” event for 27 children with special needs involved with the Friendship Circle. Each child meets with a buddy every week, and for the event, buddies brought their favorite books to read.

“It’s so cool how our site can help not just kids with learning disabilities, but kids with special needs. Even adults with learning disabilities. There are so many different audiences that it can reach,” Alana says.

Alana BlumensteinCourtesy Blumenstein family

Alana, Jacob and Reuben Blumenstein pose with volunteers at The Friendship Circle.

The influence of KidsRead2Kids expands beyond the website. The National Center on Improving Literacy asked KidsRead2Kids to partner on a program called Kid Zone!, where children can practice reading with interactive stories. Alana, Jacob and Reuben are the official Kid Zone ambassadors.

KidsRead2Kids also partnered with Bookshare, an online collection of books available to people with learning disabilities. A major milestone for Alana, Bookshare users can now follow along in the books while they watch KidsRead2Kids videos.

Bloomfield Hills resident Carol Blumenstein, the mother of Alana, Jacob and Reuben, says her children have built KidsRead2Kids all on their own.

“Children who are struggling all over the world need to see what real kids sound like,” she says.

This fall, Alana will begin her freshman year at Oberlin College in Ohio and plans to major in creative writing. “She wants to use her voice to help all those children out there that are too afraid or too ashamed to use their voice,” Carol says.

Alana’s biggest goal is to have KidsRead2Kids used at schools, so that children do not feel isolated on their academic journeys. “It’s just kids helping other kids and wanting to make a difference for others,” Alana says.

Alana is a SEEN 2018 Young Changemaker. Read more about the finalists:

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