Afterschool Reading Program Receives $250K Grant from The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation

A Phoenix-based nonprofit, Read Better Be Better was awarded a $250,000 grant from The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation for its afterschool reading comprehension program. The funds will allow RBBB to expand to four new elementary school districts: Roosevelt, Liberty, Peoria, and Tempe; reaching 22 additional schools, 1,408 new readers and leaders for a total of 4,190 students.

“Strong literacy skills can set students on a path of lifelong learning and success,” said Renee Parsons, Co-founder, The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation. “RBBB’s program not only improves reading for 3rd grade students, but it also creates a community of future leaders and changemakers among middle schoolers. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!”

RBBB connects young Readers and youth Leaders to inspire a love of literacy and learning. Through twice-weekly afterschool sessions, middle school “Leaders” develop stronger leadership skills while assisting their elementary-aged “Readers” in developing stronger literacy skills. On average, RBBB Readers improve 20% more than nonparticipating students on standardized reading comprehension tests.

“As these middle schoolers emerge from several years of social isolation and trauma, I am filled with hope and joy to see them commit to helping rebuild and strengthen their communities,” said Sophie Allen-Etchart, CEO, RBBB. “These students are excited to be a part of Read Better Be Better’s literacy and leadership program. They are truly heroes, and I am so grateful to The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation for recognizing in them the power to create positive change for and in all of us.”

According to 2021 AzM2 English Language Arts (ELA) statewide assessments, among students who are economically disadvantaged only 21% scored proficient. Affecting communities of color as well, only 26% of Latino students passed compared to 52% of White students. For these reasons, Read Better Be Better was founded to supplement classroom literacy instruction at Title I schools serving families experiencing poverty. Literacy is a crucial skill for success and students are four times less likely to graduate high school when not reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade.

“Knowing how to read is essential,” said Bob Parsons, Co-founder, The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation. “Read Better Be Better is ensuring kids don’t fall through the cracks, preparing them with a life skill that will enrich lives and open future opportunities.

RBBB serves a 91% minority population and 80% of our students are eligible for the Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) program.  Combating higher levels of poverty and lower levels of proficiency in education, these students are statistically more likely to drop out of high school, engage in criminal behavior, struggle with unemployment, and accrue more costly medical bills during their lifetimes.  With proper reading intervention, however, there is an 89% chance that students who can read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade will graduate from high school, irrespective of socioeconomic status.

The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation offers support to nonprofit organizations successfully working to empower, educate, nurture, and nourish people during what is often the darkest time of their lives. Founded in 2012 by philanthropists and business leaders Bob and Renee Parsons to provide hope and life-changing assistance to the country’s most vulnerable populations, The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation offers critical funding at critical times to those in need. The Foundation’s giving is driven by the core belief that all people – regardless of race, religion, roots, economic status, sexual orientation, or gender identity – deserve access to quality healthcare, education and a safe place to call home.

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