Ep. 28 Creating an Impact with Emily Moberly of Traveling Stories
Welcome back to Seek The Joy Podcast!
On the podcast this week is Emily Moberly, CEO and Founder of Traveling Stories. In its eighth year, Traveling Stories is a non-profit based in San Diego, CA. Their mission is to empower kids to outsmart poverty by providing the literacy and money management skills they need to become productive members of society. Through their mobile StoryTent program, they teach kids money management skills and help them fall in love with reading by the 4th grade. At the StoryTents, kids pick out books that interest them and read out loud with a volunteer. For every book read they earn a book buck, which can be redeemed for prizes.
Traveling Stories currently serve over 3,000 local kids, ages 2-12 years old, every year. Studies show that kids in low-income households who can't read proficiently by 4th grade are 15 times more likely to drop out of school, and in the US 82% of disadvantaged kids can't read at grade level.
On today's episode Emily and I chat all about her journey starting Traveling Stories, the inspiration behind it, the kind of impact its had on her life, and how she overcame moments of self-doubt and burnout to stay in it. We also chat about the role of community in her life, how she's incorporated more balance into her routine, growing her voice, her favorite book(s), joy in her life, and much more.
At 22 years-old Emily was teaching English to high school students at a bilingual school in Honduras. One morning while sitting at her desk reading "To Kill a Mockingbird," one of her students asked her why she was reading . . . "you're the teacher. You could be doing anything." Emily started sharing with her students about Jem, Atticus, and Scout. She asked them what their favorite book was, and only one student raised her hand. The rest of her students confessed that they had never read for fun, and didn't have a favorite book. Emily discovered that their city had almost no access to books - she realized they hadn't fallen in love with reading because they had grown up without books.
Emily returned from Christmas vacation with a suitcase full of used books - from Goosebumps to Catcher in the Rye. She watched her students fall in love with reading for the first time. It changed their attitudes about learning, reading, and their future.
Her students inspired her to start Traveling Stories to give that same experience to children all over the world, and even in her own backyard.
Through Traveling Stories Emily gets to inspire imaginations and provide kids' with the literacy skills they need to turn their own dreams into reality.
Emily says it so well on today's episode - there are so many studies that show your ability to read is tied to future success. Your ability to hold a job, get paid well, mental and physical health, and social skills. Reading has significant ties to everything and if kids are missing out on that, it really stumps their ability for the rest of their life.
Emily is set on changing that. Their StoryTent Program encourages kids to read, and the impact has been incredible. It's that impact that has helped Emily bounce back after burning out last year and helped her push past any self-doubt or fear.
There's so much out there about what it takes to START something, but rarely do you ever hear a conversation about what it takes to STAY IN something.
On today's episode, Emily shares that over the last eight years she lost some of her identity along the way. People were starting to identify her as "the book lady" - and yes, she is the founder and CEO of Traveling Stories, but her identity doesn't come from her work. The truth is, whe was burning herself out. Setting huge goals, not reaching them, and feeling like a failure. Because so much of her life revolved around Traveling Stories, she started to feel like she was a failure. There wasn't a distinction between her work and personal life.
Emily realized that she's much more than what she's created and in order to stay in it - she had to make some changes, set boundaries, and learn to unplug.
Emily also shares that she realized she couldn't wear all of the hats anymore if she wanted Traveling Stories to grow. She learned to let go of some of the control and delegate more of the work. Traveling Stories is growing more than ever - and learning to let go to grow changed her life.
It was great to hear how Emily set good boundaries in her life in order to have a more sustainable work-life balance, investing in other parts of her life, and letting go of any guilt she might have felt by unplugging.
Today's conversation was so wonderful and I had the best time connecting with Emily. Her journey, both personally and professionally, is inspiring and it was so cool to hear the impact Traveling Stories has had both on her life, and in the greater community.
To learn more about Traveling Stories, visit their website travelingstories.org On their site you can learn more about their mission, their StoryTents, and how to get involved!
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