Children reading levels are top priority for Todd Hoover and Alonzo Sullivan.

Hoover, an account representative and Stetson Law School student, met Sullivan, a commercial real estate agent, three decades ago. Together, during a game of basketball, the pair started First 25.

The First 25 is a non-profit literacy program in Pinellas County, focusing on underprivileged young people. Hoover is the author of several children’s and young adult novels.

“What we try to do with the kids is get them excited,” Hoover said. “Because, once you get a kid excited, they’ll do anything for you.”

First 25 started three years ago to promote what Hoover calls “racial literary equality.” The pilot program is at John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg.

Sullivan, a lifelong Pinellas county resident, said working with the children is fulfilling.

“You know what the thing about it is, when you see the enthusiasm in the kid’s eyes. When they read and they’re hanging out with us and we’re pumping them up and making them feel like we care about them. That’s all it takes,” Sullivan said.