Children in the Bonton neighborhood of South Dallas will soon have a new place to hang out and spend some time with a good book.
A Literacy Lab is now set up inside a neighborhood community center.
"When a child is properly educated, you give them an opportunity to be successful in whatever they do because now they have the intellectual capability and capacity and they're reaching and realizing their potential on a daily basis," said Scott Turner, a Frisco resident who founded a new nonprofit called Community Engagement and Opportunity Council.
The Literacy Lab is its first project. The goal is to give children kindergarten through sixth grade a place to build reading skills and just as important, to see themselves in the books they read.
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"A lot of the books in here represent the kids who live in Bonton and so you'll see people of color," Turner said. "And not to say our white brothers and sisters in the community are not able to teach in that way, but when children come in see books that are representative of who they are or where they come from or they, too, achieve great things, the studies show it encourages them."
"These kids have got to see, hear and know about people who look like them. People who share their life experiences, and if they can read a book that tells a great story of someone who's in their same environment or written by someone, can you imagine that?" said Linda Yaccarino, chair of Global Advertising and p\Partnerships for NBC 5's parent company NBCUniversal.
She chairs the national board for Turner's nonprofit. The two met while serving on separate presidential councils and discovered a common interest rooted in fitness. Yaccarino is the mother of two children who benefited from sports. Turner is a former NFL player and state representative who grew up in the Dallas area.
The pillars of his nonprofit are sports, mentorship and economic opportunity. Turner believes those three are the vehicles that can empower the millions of children in the U.S. who live in poverty.
"When a child or even an adult, when their mindset changes, their outlook changes. When the conversation goes from hopelessness to hopefulness, from I'm never gonna get out of here to man, I know, I can make something of myself, even if it is right here, that's our heart, that's our mission," Turner said.
And he wanted to start that mission in a neighborhood connected to his past.
"My mom's from South Dallas and I told my mom, one day I was going to come back to South Dallas and help this community," Turner said.
The Literacy Lab is closed right now due to COVID-19 restrictions in Dallas County, but Turner's nonprofit plans a big celebration when children are finally able to use the space and read their way into a brighter future.