An Independent School • Grades 5-12

Michael Chiu '82: Chapter2Chapter

Sitting in a sea of discarded books in Lakewood, Wash., literacy advocate Michael Chiu ’82 secures reading material for low-income and at-risk kids.

Founder and Executive Director  |  Chapter2Chapter

May 2019

By Jim Collins


uring a 27-year career as a police officer, including two decades on SWAT and investigation units, Michael Chiu noticed a disturbing pattern in the impoverished and less fortunate homes he entered. “In those houses, apartments, and trailers,” Chiu says, “I stepped over, and stepped on, a lot of things. There was one thing I never remember stepping over. I never stepped over a children’s book.”

Newly retired, Chiu turned his energy toward changing the pattern. He learned that 85 percent of juveniles in the criminal justice system are functionally illiterate, and that two-thirds of 4th graders who are reading below grade level will end up in jail or on welfare. He founded a nonprofit in 2017 to help give the next generation of at-risk children a different story. His organization, Chapter2Chapter, puts age-appropriate books, free of charge, into the homes of underprivileged families across Washington state. It partners with volunteers and other nonprofits to promote youth literacy and basic parenting skills.

“Nothing is an adequate substitute for one-on-one parent-child interaction. One of the most fundamental things any parent can do is to establish a daily routine of reading aloud to a child.”

“Start the habit right away with picture books. Read to your children even before they are talking. The foundations of learning: words, sentences, images, structure, completing a task — they’re all there, and they’re all important.”

“Consciously set aside a quiet time each day to read to each of your young children, and make it enjoyable. Reinforce the association with reading and positive family time. And don’t stop reading once your children are proficient. Have them read to you from books that interest them. It can extend that bonding experience an additional two years or more.”

“The best general advice I can give is based on my career as a police officer. It applies to any hard situation or conversation. Spend 15 more seconds listening. Those 15 seconds are where the humanity comes in.”