Mission: Read Better Be Better helps children improve literacy skills and become better learners.
We create change by:
Encouraging an active enjoyment of reading
Helping develop a deeper understanding of what is being read
Vision: A Society in which children master the foundational skills necessary to become independent learners
A child’s reading ability by the end of third grade is a key predictor of their future academic success. In fact, research shows that a child’s third grade reading level is directly correlated with how well that student performs in ninth grade, the likelihood they will graduate high school, and whether they will go on to attend college.
According to 2014-15 AzMERIT results, only 40 percent of Arizona’s third graders score proficient or highly proficient in third grade reading, and even more significant gaps exist among minority, low-income, and at-risk populations.
Because reading is the foundational skill for all school-based learning and because third grade is the pivotal time for a child to master reading, the team at Read Better Be Better (RBBB) has constructed a unique program for boosting third grade reading comprehension. Surveys suggest that educators do not have time to adequately address comprehension though they recognize that it is a critical skill, so RBBB supplements classroom instruction in an afterschool program. RBBB employs an evidence-based curriculum to help ensure student success in subsequent grades.
RBBB partners with school districts to mobilize eighth grade volunteers to implement the curriculum one-on-one with struggling third graders. The group seeks out eighth graders who aren’t the typical volunteer. Some have been recommended by school officials who see potential for growth but also the potential for problems if these students aren’t given some direction. The program encourages them to be a positive influence and shows them the importance of learning. Students must apply for the job and be selected, which is a simple but, to a disengaged eighth grader, a strong indication that they should take their role seriously.
Third graders are chosen because they’re at risk of being kept behind as a result of reading skills but aren’t receiving more robust interventions. A few of the children have behavioral challenges, and some are ELL students. In the 2016-2017 school year, they are working with more than 350 third graders and 350 eighth graders in Avondale Elementary and Tolleson Elementary districts.
Sessions are facilitated by university students in the college of education. RBBB works in partnership with Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to offer meaningful experience to ASU students. In addition to providing guidance to the third graders, the interaction gives these college students unparalleled exposure to classroom management, curriculum development, and the social and emotional struggles of many children. It helps students prepare for their coming education career, bolstering future teachers in a state struggling with a teacher shortage.
The program is young, but initial results are very encouraging. The vast majority of third grade participants are showing increased levels of comprehension, concentration, and reading enjoyment.
Even more exciting, the eighth grade volunteers are memorizing the learning comprehension strategies and implementing them with younger siblings in their home. These older students are growing their own reading skills, while also increasing a sense of social responsibility and impact. RBBB significantly impacts third graders, eighth graders, and future teachers.