Learning to read by third grade is considered a critical milestone in the academic success of a student. Some children struggle to achieve that milestone for a variety of reasons. DANA member Reading Assist Institute (RAI) is one Delaware nonprofit organization that supports those children, in particular those who are considered Tier III – those who struggle the most, and who have already gone through unsuccessful reading interventions. Their mission is dedicated to teaching the foundational skills of reading to children with significant academic challenges, empowering them to achieve grade-level proficiency.
In 2015, the organization underwent strategic planning using the Jim Collin’s Good to Great framework developed by DANA. In her article “Good>Better>Great,” Stephanie Cory, CFRE wrote about their planning work in the Fall 2016 Advancing Philanthropy publication. Coming out of that process, Reading Assist launched the RAI Reading Corps, an AmeriCorps member program that trains and coaches reading interventionists to provide one-to-one daily tutoring sessions for first, second and third graders in the phonics-based RAI reading intervention program. At the beginning of the year, none of the first- or second-grade students in the program – and only a quarter of the third-grade students – had reached benchmarks for phonemic awareness expected at the start of first grade. By the middle of the year, every single second and third-grade student in the program had met that benchmark, and by the end of the year, all but four of the first graders had done the same.
“We have learned that one-to-one intervention truly moves the needle, and helps to close the gap between these students and their peers,” said RAI Executive Director Vickie Innes. “Now one year into the pilot and with an incredibly impressive group of new RAI Reading Corps members – and a few all-stars returning from our first year – I’m excited to see how much more progress the students can make.”
RAI recognizes the value of partnership, and as such has worked with AmeriCorps to secure qualified tutors. Their most important partnership is with the Colonial School District. According to Superintendent Dusty Blakely, the reading achievement is impressive on its own, but he believes that the program provides the mentorship and personal attention that helps to build the young readers’ self-confidence. You can hear from Dusty, teachers, tutors and the children themselves in this great video: One Reflection on RAI Reading Corps.
Governor-elect John Carney’s education policy outlined several steps to help children become college and career ready. Reading Assist Institute is an important nonprofit partner that is working tirelessly to help struggling readers succeed.
As a reminder, I’m inviting DANA member nonprofits to share their impact stories through my “Celebrating our Impact” blog. Please send me your story to [email protected], with a picture and brief paragraph on what you do and how it transforms the lives or the community. Collectively, our stories can help to inform the community on the great and impactful work nonprofits do across Delaware.