Non-profit offering free program to help kids who are struggling to read

BOSTON — It’s the time of year to put away the sunscreen and take out the books, which can be torture for kids who have trouble reading.

Finding the right book for a kid can be challenging, according to Frank Mermelstein, the children’s book buyer at the New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton.

“There’s always the parent who comes in and you can tell the child does not like reading," Mermelstein said. "They’re open about it.”

A Boston based nonprofit called Story Shares thinks the problem might not be with the reader, but might be with the books.

“If you are a 13-year-old, but you are reading at a first or second grade level, you are never going to be excited reading books written for first or second graders. So, stories like Curious George would be uninteresting,” said Story Shares co-founder Louise Baigleman.

Story Shares is trying to fill a literary void by creating books that are easy to read, but have topics that interest older kids. Users can download the book for free, or buy a paperback.

“Seventy percent of high school students need some kind of reading remediation, so it’s actually staggering numbers,” Baigleman said.

Story Shares sponsors contests for authors, getting them to write books like “Jacob and the Bee Man.” It is a novel with themes for high school students, but written on a first or second grade level.

Their library now has more than 300 titles and has attracted readers in 49 states and 70 countries.

“We think that we have kind of hit on an innovative solution that allows us to engage both the writer and the reading community,” said Baigleman.

Engagement is important, according to Mermelstein, because for a student to become a reader, they have to learn to like it.

“The more they read, the more they will want to read most likely.  And if they are interested, they will want to read.”

Baigleman was just named to the “Forbes 30 under 30” list in education for creating Story Shares.

She graduated from the Boston University School of Education in 2011.