Many Americans are energized by the challenge of helping all children learn to read. Committed citizens and public officials are attacking the problem head on, from the nations capital to statehouses to city halls, from libraries to pizza chains to ballparks.
Their work is informed by mounting research on how to achieve the best results. Activities touch on key issuestraining teachers, reading to children, accessing books, and increasing support for parents and child care providers. There is consensus on the need to touch the lives of children who are the hardest to reachthose who are the least likely to enter school ready to read and the most likely to complete third grade as poor readers.
Businesses, nonprofit organizations, sports teams, newspapers, and local, state, and federal governments are sponsoring programs aimed at winning the war on illiteracy. Many such programs have been profiled as Ideas At Work in earlier chapters of this book. This chapter spotlights more examples of Ideas At Work from a variety of organizations taking strategic action to ensure that all children become good readers. These additional programs are but a fraction of the good work being done from coast to coast.
The U.S. Department of Educations America Reads Challenge calls on every American to do what he or she can to help a child become a successful reader. America Reads encourages parents and caregivers to read and talk daily to children from infancy. America Reads advocates research-based college training and high-quality professional development for teachers. America Reads also encourages community efforts to recruit and train reading tutors to supplement classroom reading instruction.
America Reads promotes local literacy partnerships between parents, schools, libraries, child care centers, universities, businesses, and nonprofit groups. It also disseminates reading research and recommends further study. Since its launch in January 1997, nearly 300 organizations, from libraries and religious groups to schools and businesses, have stepped forward to join The Presidents Coalition for America Reads.
America Reads unites schools, libraries, and youth and community groups to sponsor summer and after-school reading programs across the country. In 1999, nearly 2 million Read*Write*Now! Activity Posters have been distributed, in English and Spanish, to enlist parents, grandparents, schools, and communities to help keep children reading during the summer. The Read*Write*Now! Tip Sheet, in English and Spanish, offers ideas for starting a community reading program.
Financial Aid for Tutors
Through the Federal Work-Study program, more than 22,000 college students at 1,100 colleges and universities earned financial aid by serving as reading tutors in the 1997-98 academic year. Many more participated in the 1998-99 academic year. By 2000, almost all of the 3,300 colleges, universities, and trade schools receiving federal work-study funds are expected to have a reading tutor program.
The Higher Education Act of 1998 included additional funding for the Federal Work-Study program that will allow more college students to earn financial aid as reading tutors. Schools and community groups can contact their local college or university financial aid office to ask about placements for work-study tutors at virtually no cost.
America Reads Challenge
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-0107
Fax: (202) 401-0596
To order publications: (877) 4ED-PUBS
Corporation for National Service
The Corporation for National Service (CNS) is a major partner with America Reads. AmeriCorps members operate America Reads tutoring programs and recruit and train volunteers nationwide. In just five years, AmeriCorps members have taught, tutored, and mentored more than 2.2 million children.
In addition to AmeriCorps, thousands of Americans participate in reading improvement programs through AmeriCorps*VISTA, Senior Corps, Foster Grandparents, Seniors In Schools, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, and Learn and Serve America. AmeriCorps members also organize 45,000 community volunteers in elementary school reading programs.
Corporation for National Service
1201 New York Avenue
Washington, DC 20525
(202) 606-5000, ext. 280
Fax: (202) 565-2789
The U.S. Department of Education, the Corporation for National Service, and the Regional Educational Laboratories provide training to community literacy leaders and federal work-study tutors.
In 1998, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $3 million to communities in 40 states for ongoing training of 10,000 reading tutors. The $50,000 grants support community partnerships that offer high-quality tutor training to community volunteers, such as senior citizens and employees, and to college students who may earn financial aid by serving as reading tutors. Most local partnerships consist of a university, a school, and a community group.
A 1999 report, So That Every Child Can Read... America Reads Community Partnerships, was created to share the best practices of these projects.
Planning and Program Development
Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory
101 S.W. Main, Suite 500
Portland, OR 97204-3297
Fax: (503) 275-9584
Even Start is a federally funded family literacy program. It helps break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy by improving educational opportunities for the nations low-income families with young children. Since its modest beginnings in 1989, Even Start grew to more than 730 projects by 1998.
Approximately 40,000 families participate in Even Start projects across the nation. More than 90 percent of participating families have incomes substantially below the poverty level, and 85 percent of the parents have neither a high school diploma nor a GED. Even Start families represent a wide spectrum of racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Even Start views literacy as a legacy to be passed down through a family. The project has three interrelated goals. First, through parenting education, it helps parents become full partners in the education of their children. Second, through early childhood education, it assists children in reaching their full potential as learners. Third, through adult basic education, it provides literacy training for parents. Each component builds upon the other, creating a composite that is more powerful and enduring than any single piece.
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-6132
State leaders are making great strides to improve reading achievement. Many state literacy efforts focus on early care and education, early intervention, and teacher quality. States also seek to involve parents and citizens to extend learning time beyond the classroom. Iowa and South Carolina are reducing class size in kindergarten through third grade for basic skills instruction, particularly in reading. Many are placing a premium on applying the most successful, research-based ideas.
Recently Enacted State Laws
More than 20 states have enacted reading improvement laws since 1997. (See statute summaries in Appendix II.) State timetables for results range from the 1998-99 school year through 2004.
Early Care and Education
To provide quality early childhood services, Colorados Early Education and School Readiness Program funds initiatives to help achieve readiness goals for at-risk children. The funds support accreditation efforts of early childhood care centers and professional development for early childhood teachers and caregivers. Utah, too, is designing programs for child care centers to work with and train volunteers to create an environment that fosters reading growth. South Carolinas First Steps initiative will provide subsidies for child care that prepares children to enter school ready to learn.
Early Assessment and Intervention
To ensure that children are reading at grade-level and that schools intervene if they are not, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Texasto name a fewhave enacted legislation to create assessment and intervention programs in the early grades. Ohio established a Fourth-Grade Guarantee to require that students read at grade-level before going on to middle school and high school.
To improve teacher performance, some states, including Mississippi, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Washington, have funded teacher development and credentialing programs. Californias Commission on Teacher Credentialing is required to gauge the skills and abilities of all reading teachers in the primary grades. In June 1999, California launched professonal development institutes to provide reading instruction training to 6,000 primary school teachers.
Also new in 1999, South Carolinas Governors Institute for Reading will offer research-based professional development to kindergarten through third grade teachers. Idaho recently required new teachers to pass an exam based on new literacy standards for certification. Idaho also requires kindergarten through eighth-grade teachers to complete three credits in state-approved reading instruction for recertification every five years.
Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, and other states are encouraging parental involvement through programs that teach parents how to help their children in reading. The Texas Reading Initiative directs information and resources to parents, in addition to schools and communities.
Extended Learning Time
A 1999 California initiative offers four hours of instruction per day to children in kindergarten through fourth grade when school is not in session, including summertime. Virginias Literacy Passport requires students who fail literacy tests to receive after-school or summer school instruction. Washington and Ohio sponsor large tutoring programs that match thousands of trained volunteers with elementary school student who need extra help and encouragement.
Many statewide programs are tackling the challenge of illiteracy in diverse and creative ways. Here are a few examples from across the nation.
Delaware Reading Is Fundamental Initiative
Launched in 1998 by Delaware First Lady Martha S. Carper, the Delaware Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) Initiative aims to bring literacy services and free books to young children and their families. Supported by the state Department of Education, corporations, and foundations, the initiative serves every first-grader in public school and every preschool child enrolled in Head Start, Even Start, or the Parents as Teachers program. Over five years, this statewide, first-in-the-nation project will reach about 80,000 children.
The initiative serves first-graders through RIFs intensive Running Start program. Almost 100 percent of 9,000 first-graders met their reading goals as each child read (or had read to him or her) 30 books in 12 weeks. The preschool program provides reading readiness activities for the classroom and home, read-aloud modeling for parents and caregivers, and childrens books to take home. More than 3,500 children received three new books in 1998.
A University of Maryland study of the project found an increase in the quality of first-grade classroom libraries, in students motivation to read, in students reading achievement, and in the quality and quantity of home literacy practices (Gambrell, 1999).
The second year was launched by Mrs. Carper with community reading rallies, reading recognition programs, public service announcements, and other motivational events. The First Lady also will lead the spouses of the nations governors in a national campaign for child literacy for one year.
Delaware Department of Education
Gifted & Talented, Reading, and Service-Learning
(302) 739-4885, ext. 3110
Ohios Fourth-Grade Guarantee requires all school districts to assess students reading skills at the end of first, second, and third grades. If students fail, they are offered extra help. Beginning in 2001, fourth-graders who fail in reading will not be promoted.
Recently, the scope of the challenge was laid bare when 53 percent of all fourth-graders failed the reading section of the state proficiency test. So Governor Bob Taft does more than serve as figurehead for the new OhioReads program. He also serves as a weekly tutor for a Columbus third-grader.
Taft has called for a corps of 20,000 volunteer tutors from Ohio businesses, the public sector, service organizations, colleges and universities, senior citizens, parents, and the general community. In 1999, the Ohio legislature unanimously supported $25 million for the OhioReads initiative. In addition to tutor recruitment, funds will support public school needs, such as professional development for teachers and community grants for after-school and summer reading programs.
The private sector was quick to respond to the governors challenge. The Limited, a clothing retailer based in Columbus, immediately offered $250,000 to help 400 employees tutor kindergarten children in local schools. OhioReads is to be launched in September 1999.
Office of the Governor
77 S. High Street, 30th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6117
South Carolina was one of just 10 states or jurisdictions where fourth-graders showed improvements on the NAEP reading assessments between 1994 and 1998. In June 1999, Governor Jim Hodges secured $20 million from the legislature for South Carolina First Steps, an early childhood program. The program aims for all children to enter school healthy and ready to learn.
Gov. Hodges First Steps initiative is designed to provide children and their parents with access to high-quality preschool education, parenting education, and family literacy programs, said State School Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum. It will help our students build the academic foundation they need for success.
Modeled on North Carolinas successful Smart Start program, First Steps will be community-based: it aims to unite state and local agencies, churches, parents, teachers, and businesses to identify and address childrens needs.
Hodges also secured funding to continue to lower class size in primary schools so that no kindergarten through third-grade teacher has more than 17 students. The governors proposal for a new Reading Institute was also approved by the legislature. The Institute will research the best ways to teach reading, provide extensive training for elementary school reading teachers, and monitor results annually.
Hodges is also asking the parents of every South Carolina public school child to sign a new Compact with Our Children in 1999 and at the beginning of each subsequent school year. This pledge calls for teachers, parents, and students to share the responsibility for childrens education and to live up to high standards. Parents pledge to:
Jim Ray, Deputy Superintendent
Division of District and Community Services
South Carolina Department of Education
1429 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29201
In 1998, Governor Michael Leavitt launched Utah Reads, a literacy campaign to ensure that all Utah students are reading at grade-level by the end of the third grade. In March 1999, the legislature approved funds for local school districts to develop personalized instruction plans for readers in first through third grades. Funds were also approved for community-based literacy efforts.
Staff development on early literacy success is available to all preschool teachers and child care providers. Professional development for elementary school teachers includes the use of informal tests to assess and monitor students progress in reading. Utah Reads is training principals on early literacy issues and research-based classroom practices.
A community volunteer tutoring program is being developed with a link to Utahs Promise. The goal is to have 12,000 struggling readers at or above grade-level by the end of third grade. Utah communities are identifying volunteers and training them to tutor children in local schools. In some schools, older students tutor younger children. Utah Reads provides grants for purchases of new books for tutoring sessions.
The Utah reading initiative also promotes family involvement. First Lady Jacalyn Leavitt leads the Read to Me campaign, which aims to help parents understand the importance of reading aloud to their children. Public service announcements will be broadcast, and a literacy resource kit will be given to parents of newborns.
This is the cornerstone of my budget, Leavitt said. Ive made a decision to make literacy one of my highest priorities as governor. Reading is the most fundamental skill for success in learning. Literacy is not just a school or government responsibility. It starts with parents at home.
Dr. Janice Dole
Utah State Office of Education
Read to Me
Local communities are expanding their efforts to improve childrens reading abilities. Popular grassroots initiatives include summer reading programs, book drives, tutoring sessions, and events featuring professional sports teams. Here are examples of local literacy projects.
Fast Break for Reading
The Atlanta Hawks basketball team sponsors Fast Break for Reading, a program now in more than 100 schools. Players and dance team members join mascot Harry the Hawk at school assemblies to promote reading. Students who complete the program win tickets and discount vouchers. In 1998, students collectively read 18,500 books, earning 2,600 tickets valued at $92,000.
Fast Break for Reading
Nearly 50 percent of Bostons third-graders do not read at grade-level. Under the leadership of Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant, ReadBoston unites families, schools, and the community to help all Bostons children become able readers by third grade. Support includes research and referral help, workshops, financial assistance, reading tutors, and books for children.
A major thrust of the campaign is to promote more effective reading instruction in elementary schools. The Primary Literacy Projects list of seven essential elements of strong reading programs has been formally adopted by the school system. More than $7 million in new public and private funding has been allocated to improve reading instruction. Reading programs such as Success for All and the Early Learning Literacy Initiative are being implemented in at least 75 percent of the citys elementary schools.
The Boston Public Schools is intensifying its efforts to promote literacy in summer 1999. All second-graders at risk of reading failure are attending month-long summer sessions and will receive extra instruction in reading throughout the school year.
ReadBostons focus has expanded to include family involvement. Home visiting programs, preschools, community agencies, and schools work with ReadBoston to develop practical strategies to engage families in helping their children become ready to read. In 1999, more than 6,000 families participate in home reading programs throughout the city. Recent community initiatives include giving 250,000 new books to children and placing 1,000 volunteers and work-study students in schools and community settings.
Margaret Williams, Executive Director
43 Hawkins Street
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 635-READ or (617) 918-5282
Fax: (617) 918-5475
The Stanford Book Fund
In honor of Seattles school superintendent, the late John Henry Stanford, the Seattle community rallied to re-supply the school systems libraries. Organized by the Alliance for Education in 1998, the Stanford Book Fund raised $600,000 from more than 2,000 community and business partners to buy a new book for every child in the public school system. This is in addition to $300,000 raised by Stanford himself from private donors for new library books.
The Seattle-based rock group Pearl Jam donated $78,000 from a benefit concert and encouraged radio station promotions that raised even more. The Seattle Sonics and the Washington State Lottery donated $100 for every three-point shot scored by Sonics guard Hersey Hawkins. Other major donors included Microsoft, The Ackerley Group, Boeing, and PEMCO. An anonymous donor gave $100,000.
In the spring of 1999, the first delivery of 31,175 books was presented to 100 school libraries. Each book bears a special Stanford Book Fund sticker with its namesakes quote: The most important gift we can give our children is the gift of reading." More books will be delivered throughout the summer.
Alliance for Education
500 Union Street
Seattle, WA 98101-2332
Fax: (206) 343-0455
Energy Express is a six-week summer reading program that seeks to feed the minds and bodies of children in parts of West Virginia. It aims to meet twin challenges: the erosion of skills that makes summertime costly for new readers and the nutritional decline faced by students accustomed to receiving free meals at school.
College students are trained to serve as mentors for children in rural, low-income communities. Mentors provide free books and exciting learning experiences to keep children reading. Activities include shared reading, writing, drawing, and other creative arts projects. The mentors also provide two nutritious meals each day, ensuring that children can focus on feeding their imaginations.
Energy Express partners with AmeriCorps to help support the hundreds of West Virginia college students who serve as mentors. It focuses on developing strong partnerships at the local level between schools, parents, communities, and state agencies and organizations.
West Virginia University
407 Knapp Hall
P.O. Box 6031
Morgantown, WV 26506-6031
Fax: (304) 293-7599
Many diverse businesses are making extraordinary efforts to help more children succeed in reading. Here is a sampling of literacy efforts in the private sector.
Pizza Hut: Tasty Rewards
Pizza Huts BOOK IT! National Reading Incentive Program rewards young readers with free pizza, along with recognition buttons, stickers, all-star reader medallions, and praise. In its fourteenth year, BOOK IT! enrolls about 22 million students in more than 895,000 classrooms in nearly 56,000 elementary schools in all 50 states. In addition, Pizza Hut provides free pizzas for any child who completes the U.S. Department of Educations Read*Write*Now! summer activity program, a contribution worth millions of dollars.
BOOK IT! Program
P.O. Box 2999
Wichita, KS 67201
Time Warner: Its Time to Read
Time Warners nonprofit Time to Read is the largest corporate volunteer literacy program in the United States. Five thousand Time Warner employees and community members volunteer each week to tutor 20,000 children, adolescents, and adults in reading.
With Time to Read, learners use magazines such as Sports Illustrated for Kids, TIME and People to develop lifelong reading and learning strategies that they can use in school, on the job, and at home. By making reading interesting and fun, Time to Read promotes literacy skills that are relevant to the learners lives. More than 1 million volunteer hours are donated annually in 100 cities, at a cost of $175 per learner, for sponsor, tutor, learner, and training materials.
Every division of Time Warner participates in the program. Home Box Office, Time Inc., Time Warner Cable, Turner Broadcasting System, Warner Bros., and Warner Music Group all sponsor programs in their local communities where employees volunteer.
Time to Read
Time Warner Inc.
Fax: (212) 484-6417
Scholastic: More Books for Children
Scholastic Inc. has long supported community literacy programs through book donations and a discount book program. At the Presidents Summit for Americas Future in 1996, Scholastic committed to donating more than 1 million books to national, state, and local literacy organizations that support the America Reads Challenge. In 1998, Scholastic exceeded that goal by donating 1.76 million books to programs such as Born to Read, Reach Out and Read, Reading Is Fundamental, Rolling Readers, Jumpstart, Toys for Tots, and First Book, among others.
Through the Sizzling Summer Books program in June 1999, Scholastic distributed 250,000 free books to students in the District of Columbia. Every public elementary school child was allowed to select three age-appropriate Scholastic books for summer reading.
In addition, Scholastic participates in national literacy events such as Read Across America Day. Scholastic offers special discounts, challenge grants, and fundraising packages to assist literacy programs in becoming more self-sufficient.
Americas newspapers are playing a major role in creating a nation of readers. Here is an example of what a newspaper can do to help more children learn to read.
Los Angeles Times: Reading by 9
The majority of third-graders in Southern California read below grade-level. In 1999, The Los Angeles Times announced its five-year Reading by 9 campaign that seeks to help 1 million children in the five-county area of greater Los Angeles achieve grade-level reading. The Times extraordinary commitment will involve virtually every division of the company, as well as community, business, civic groups, media partners, and literacy groups. The Times estimates it will invest more than $100 million in the effort.
In partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, the Los Angeles Times is publishing hundreds of thousands of copies of The Compact for Reading, a guide and activity kit to link families and schools to improve student reading gains. The publication will be widely distributed at the local and national level in 1999.
By September 1999, Reading by 9 aims to have 6,000 trained reading tutors and literacy volunteers helping children in schools across Southern California. In the 1999-2000 school year, the campaign will donate 1 million new books to kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. A broadcast and print public service campaign will promote the importance of reading.
As Times Mirror CEO Mark Willes has stated, Failure to teach our children to read is a catastrophe of epic proportions. But it is not inevitable. We can, in fact, teach them to read, and to read well, and shame on us if we dont.
Los Angeles Times Reading by 9
Times Mirror Square
Los Angeles, CA 90053
Hundreds of nonprofit organizations are working throughout the United States to help children read well. Nonprofit organizations are providing tutors for children, organizing book drives, and assisting teachers and families. Here is a small sample of these efforts.
Association for Library Service to Children
The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, serves children from birth to age 14 and their families and caregivers.
ALSC is a major partner with the U.S. Department of Educations America Reads Challenge in promoting summer reading. ALSC helped create the new Read*Write*Now! Activity Poster for kids and Tip Sheet for adults to start a community reading program. Virtually all of Americas 16,000 public libraries have summer reading programs. Over the past 20 years, preschoolers have been added to summer reading efforts through Read to Me programs, where children receive recognition for books read to them by parents, older siblings, and caregivers.
Story hours for preschoolers and school-age children flourish in almost every local library. Librarians also offer staff development and training to teachers and child care workers. ALSC encourages librarians to form partnerships with schools, museums, Head Start centers, health care providers, churches and synagogues, and other community groups. Librarians and community health centers are reaching out to new and expectant parents on the importance of reading daily to their child through national programs like Born to Read.
ALSC is also a partner with many public television programs that promote reading and literacy.
American Library Association/Association for Library Services to Children
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611-2795
(800) 545-2433, ext. 2162
Born to Read
(800) 545-2433, ext. 1398
Reading Is Fundamental
Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is the nations largest nonprofit childrens literacy organization, serving 3.5 million children annually at 17,000 locations. In recent years, RIFs volunteer corps has grown nearly 10 percent, to 240,000. RIF involves children in reading-related activities, encourages families to participate in their childrens education, and enables children to select free books.
RIF partnered with Scholastic Inc. to donate 250,000 books to District of Columbia schoolchildren for summer 1999 reading. By 2000, RIF will have placed 200 million books in the hands and homes of Americas children.
Among its many innovative programs, RIF has a partnership with the Mississippi State Department of Health called Healthy Start/Smart Start. Rather than using candy or tote bags as incentives for immunizations of small children, state health clinics are distributing books. Every child who is immunized receives a free book, and any accompanying siblings are also offered a book. Volunteers read with patients and coach parents on the importance of reading. Up to 60,000 poor children could be reached annually.
600 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Phi Theta Kappa: Honorable Service
Phi Theta Kappa, the International Honor Society of the Two-Year College, has chosen the America Reads Challenge as its service project for 1998-2000. Phi Theta Kappa has thousands of chapters whose members are working in their communities to help all children learn to read. Phi Theta Kappa members serve as tutors, organize book drives, and raise funds for literacy organizations.
For example, Phi Theta Kappans at Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma created the Readers and Leaders series at a local elementary school. Tulsas mayor, local celebrities, and athletes read childrens stories to emphasize the role that reading had played in their successes. The speakers also donated the books to the school library.
Director of Chapter Programs
Phi Theta Kappa Center for Excellence
1625 Eastover Drive
Jackson, MS 39211
(800) 946-9995, ext. 532
Read to Succeed Reading Resources