SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Springfield non-profit is working to educate and empower families through literacy.

The organization is called Ujima, which means collective work and responsibility. Missouri State professor Shurita Thomas-Tate founded the group and says her goal is to close learning gaps for all children.

Local non-profit Ujima offers a family literacy night, which encourages a love for reading and learning.

“What I know is that we have gaps in achieving in reading throughout the schooling period and so it’s really important to start very very early,” Tate said.

In fact, Tate says the group serves children as young as birth.

“We have mothers and fathers coming with kids…we have large families, small families coming and our fasting-growing group is our baby group,” Tate said.

Due to COVID-19 the organization has transitioned to drive-thru Ujima.

“Our families come and they drive-thru we provide a meal and we give the kids a bag of books with activities,” Tate said.

Ten year old, Amira Allen, has been a part of Ujima for three years.

“We get to do a bunch of art and learn a lot about different people,” Allen said.

Amira’s mom says she’s becoming a more confident reader.

“We are learning Spanish and it’s really great to see her growing in her vocabulary,” Jasmine Allen, Amira’s mom said.

Jasmine says she enjoys being able to connect with other families.

“We can learn a lot from one another we all share different experiences,” Jasmine said.

Tate says she includes a note in each bag about that month’s books, as well as some ideas families are encouraged to focus on.

Ujima takes place the second Wednesday of each month at Turning Point Church.