The National Book Foundation is proud to present Reach Incorporated with its $10,000 Innovations in Reading Prize, made possible by a generous grant from the Levenger Foundation. Based in Washington, D.C. (where 85% of public school students enter high school reading below grade level), Reach Incorporated hires struggling high schoolers as reading tutors for elementary school students. “We know that the older kids benefit from practicing reading at or just above their current grade level, and the younger students benefit from a one-on-one relationship,” says Mark Hecker, founder of Reach Incorporated. “Most people see those as two challenges, but we see that as a single solution, so we pair those kids together and watch cool things happen.”
The younger students in the Reach program experience up to 1.5 grade levels of reading growth per year of program participation, while the tutors improve their own literacy skills, discover the power of reading, and contribute to their community. “We make them care, and we make them capable,” says Hecker. “The reality is, the best way that I can teach a kid to read is to get them to feel that their reading matters to someone.”
As Typhanie, a Reach tutor explains, “If I understand it, then I’ll be able to explain it to the student. [Reach Incorporated] has pushed me to read a whole lot of books, and in class I understand a whole lot of things better now.” In addition to working in elementary schools, Reach tutors also publish children’s books with stories and characters that reflect their own experiences.
“Reach Incorporated stood out among the 159 applications we received this year with its forward-thinking approach to engagement in reading and the social world,” says Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “We think its initiatives can produce significant results in Washington and in other communities across the country.”