Pat Simons was a pioneer as an attorney and is a pioneer in her retirement. After graduating from Saint Louis University School of Law in 1974, she was one of the first women to be hired at a major St. Louis law firm when she joined Popkin and Stern. In 1998, she decided to leave her successful legal practice to support child literacy. The fruit of her labor, Ready Readers, has more than 600 volunteers who read to nearly 10,000 preschool children each week. Several times a year, the preschoolers receive a book to take home. “Literacy is a social justice issue,” wrote Ready Readers Director Lisa Greening. “Without the ability to read, a citizen does not have equal access to information, opportunities and understanding.”
What are your proudest career accomplishments?
I am thrilled that Ready Readers survived me and is thriving. Our trained volunteers now read each week to about 10,000 low-income preschool children in about 190 preschool programs, and we give each child up to seven personalized, high-quality books as gifts every year.
What inspired you to get involved in the public service or justice system?
All my life, I have had a strong interest in literacy. Before practicing law, I taught high school English and French, and during the time I practiced law, I headed a law firm associate training program, sometimes taught at Wash U and SLU, and sometimes taught at an orphanage and at an alternative high school. When I closed my law practice after about 24 years, I decided to give back by devoting full-time to promoting literacy by co-founding and directing Ready Readers, a nonprofit whose mission would be to inspire at-risk preschool children to become readers.
What is the best advice you have given or received?
I think Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” has often been helpful to me, although he wrote it to tell a boy how to be a man. But then, I always felt most women can do whatever most men can do – as long as brute strength isn’t required.
What is something that would surprise people about you?
I love to be silly.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
A journalist and author.