Meet the Thompsons: NGUMC Family Launches Children’s Literacy Effort


Kalil and Nicole Thompson with their daughters Syrai (2) and Selah (7)


What do you get when two good United Methodists get married, have two children and raise them in The United Methodist Church? Two more good United Methodists! And sometimes, even as a young child, but with the support of a family of faith and the community of the UMC, one good United Methodist may start her own nonprofit to combat illiteracy.

On January 19, Selah Thompson, her little sister, and her parents led the inaugural “March to 20Hundred Thousand Books: A Children's March for Literacy” to kick off the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday weekend. With more than 400 participants, the Children's March was launched to unite Atlanta communities and children to take to the streets and shed light on the epidemic of illiteracy and its proximal side effects on our society.

As charter members of Impact UMC in East Point, her mother Nicole says that the Rev. Olu Brown’s vision of “doing church differently” and “taking it beyond the four walls of the building” was the impetus to launching this effort.

“Before the idea of the march even came about, we had faith that God was guiding us, calling us to do something bigger,” she explained.

In 2018, Nicole and her husband Khalil were inspired by Selah to start the Empowered Readers Literacy Project, a non-profit organization with a vision to turn the tide of the illiteracy epidemic through their mission to help families build strong reading rituals and get kids excited about books. The organization manages a handful of programs in addition to the march, including identifying “library deserts” and building and maintaining Little Free Libraries for those underserved communities. The goal is to collect for the libraries “20hundred thousand” books (that’s two million in adult terms) that will expand opportunities for young people and their families to experience the joys and adventures of reading.

Like the precursor of many things great, however, the Thompson family first weathered what Nicole calls a “divine storm.” Among other hardships, she and Khalil lost their jobs in 2017.

“It shifted our entire paradigm, but we had the faith to believe that it was part of God's plan,” explained Nicole. “We really leaned in to seek His will, and there we found our then 5-year-old daughter Selah with a revolutionary idea -- to get more kids excited about books and to give them access to books.”

The family’s faith led them on the journey that has now culminated as the Literacy Project, but it was The United Methodist Church, says Nicole, that leant a tremendous amount of support for their work.

“Bishop Sue, Rev. Blair Zant, and others in the North Georgia Conference tapped into our vision from the beginning,” she said. “Their support validated our plan for us and for the community at large.”

Nicole points to experiences such as NGUMC’s M-Lab, Chick Planters Live, and the United Methodist Women of Sandy Springs that really strengthened the great benefits of being part of a body of believers.

But of course, the real driver behind the organization is Selah.

“Though only 7 years old, Selah has an amazing call on her life. Khalil and I are just fulfilling our privilege and obligation to help her live that out.,” said Nicole.

For more information on Empowered Readers Literacy Project, please visit

Rebecca Wallace is a communications consultant (and United Methodist) in Atlanta. This is the first in a series to introduce one another to amazing North Georgia United Methodists - like you!