Daily Point of Light # 2004 Oct 9, 2001

Read-to-Win! is an innovative reading enrichment program which promotes reading and literacy among children ages 6-14 in Chicago’s most challenged inner-city areas. Originally planned as a five-year pilot program, Read-to-Win! has been so successful that the One-to-One Learning Center has committed to endowing it as a permanent educational outreach program, serving an ever-expanding list of schools and youth centers. The program builds and rebuilds school libraries, enhances the educational curriculum of partner schools and agencies, and introduces children to the importance of reading and books to their current and future lives.

Dedicated to fostering a culture of reading, the program makes reading fun and rewarding, while also making new, quality books available to children at school and for home. The need for such a program was compelling five years ago and statistics indicate that need continues today. Most students do not view reading as a fun way to spend their time. Poor reading scores reflect this lack of attention to a lifelong skill that not only contributes to academic and career success, but also provides great personal enjoyment. If reading can be positioned as a “fun” activity, then that orientation will carry over to all aspects of reading – including the reading necessary to proceed through the educational system. Simply put, children who read stay in school.

The program was designed as a six-week experience revolving around 20 minutes of daily “fun” reading. Read-to-Win! has become such a success that many partner sites are already extending daily reading time to 30 minutes – at the insistence of the children themselves. Teachers value the program and the relaxed learning atmosphere it fosters. As a result of the program, many parents report reading both with and to their children as new family activities.

As part of the incentive program, children in the program “read to win” books for themselves and their schools. Three of the four new books earmarked for each student are retained in the school or youth center library, and one become the child’s own to take home for his or her personal library and to share with the family. By the end of the five-year adoption cycle, more than 10,000 books are distributed to and through an average school with 500 students.

Read-to-Win! partners are chosen for the program on the basis of need and through recommendations and evaluations from existing partners, educators, staff and civic leaders. During the 2000-2001 school year, the six-week reading program operated at 17 sites: eight Chicago Youth Centers, the Northwestern University Settlement House, seven parochial schools and one public school. Last year, more than 3,500 inner-city children in some of Chicago’s most seriously challenged neighborhoods were involved in this important literacy initiative. It is envisioned that the program will reach more than 5,200 students next year and distribute more than 20,000 new books.