Reading Is Love, a documentary directed by Amber Monet, tells the story of two fathers on their journey of creating a business with the hope of bettering reading education in America. Throughout the film, viewers are able to see Akeiff Staples and Brent Johnstone, the two fathers and founders of FathersRead365, as they grew their initial vision into a powerful company with a great message. Originally meeting in college, the two men followed their passions for improving the availability and quality of reading education for children across the county, starting with the the mission of simply organizing readings for 30 daycares in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Over the course of the film, Monet portrays countless interviews with the fathers as they speak about their missions and their past experiences that have led them to this point. Akeiff, coming from a single parent household and a history with addiction, expresses his motivation to provide an intimate fatherly connection to his own children as well as an opportunity for kids to learn how to read. Battling with diabetes, he not only wants to provide these children with books and education, but also information on a healthy lifestyle and father-like attention that many of them may not be receiving. Brent, coming from a past of struggling with reading as a young child, wants to lead kids in the right direction and equip them with the proper tools for success as they grow into adulthood. He speaks of his own experiences, wanting to inspire both other children as well as his own for them to believe that reading challenges are far more common than some may think and that one can grow from them to attend college and reach success, just as he has.
Through depictions of various lessons and interactions with children in the short film, viewers are able to visualize the importance of reading education as well as guidance. Akeiff and Brent clearly go out of their way to improve the experiences that these children associate with reading, wanting to foster their growth and reach out a helping hand to the underprivileged and struggling readers of America. One can blatantly notice their undying enthusiasm as they speak to the kids they are reading to, engaging them in a unique way in order to both peak their interest and urge them to learn.
At the same time, viewers can envision the strong goals that the fathers have for their relationships with their children, determined to tending to their emotional and developmental needs as well as their physical necessary ones. Akeiff and Brent are shown talking to their children and reading to them, bringing their job home in order to provide them with the greatest opportunities as time goes on.
FathersRead365 may have started out as a small initiative geared towards the children of Philadelphia in 2017, but has since then grown into a far greater and more widespread company. While the fathers were unable to provide every child with a book at its beginning, the business has grown to touch the lives of hundreds of kids across America. It has received funding from the William Penn Foundation and has been granted a Book Bus in 2022 from the Vanguard Group, with hopes to expand even further in the future.
Monet’s film works to bring the harsh truth of reading education statistics to light and showcase a change being made for its betterment. For a powerful story about two fathers’ dreams to improve reading across America and generate a welcoming environment for children to learn and grow, see Reading Is Love at the 2023 New Jersey International Film Festival on Sunday, June 11. The film will be Online for 24 Hours and In-Person at 5 PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. Tickets are available for purchase here. Reading Is Love Director Amber Monet as well as Akeiff Staples and Brent Johnstone will be at this screening to do a Q+A session with the audience after the show.