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Rina Madhani

Rina Madhani Honoree Profile

Rina Madhani is the co-founder and executive director of Start Lighthouse, a non-profit dedicated to narrowing the nation’s literacy gap by building equitable and inclusive literacy experiences for children and their families.

When a student of Madhani confided in her that they were terrified of becoming “another Bronx statistic,” she immediately understood their fear. As a Bronx-based educator, she saw her students’ families struggle when met with difficult conversations about holding their child back a grade level. These stories stuck with her.

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the challenges of her students only intensified. More disconnected from their educators and peers than ever before, they lost access to vital tools and resources including classroom libraries and childcare. Emboldened to make a difference, Madhani got to work. In March 2020, with the help of her co-founders, she launched Start Lighthouse, hosting pop-up community events to distribute customized literacy toolkits.

Today, Start Lighthouse leads in-person interactive workshops led by nationally recognized and award-winning BIPOC authors and illustrators, which allows students to experience reading in a uniquely personalized way. And their on-site bookshop offers a variety of free, inclusive, engaging and bilingual titles that serve as an inspiration to all when building their home libraries. Just two years in, Madhani and her team have successfully delivered more than 500+ hours of programming to schools and families, distributed 21,015 brand-new multicultural and culturally responsive books, trained 105 volunteers, and kickstarted 5,117 home libraries in the Bronx.

In 2022, Madhani and her co-founders rescued an abandoned library to build a permanent home for the organization’s programming, the first Start Lighthouse Literacy Hub- a significant step in reviving unused library spaces across the Bronx. A second Literacy Hub has been shortlisted for federal funding.

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