In 2012, three Arizona foundations, together with three state agencies, saw enactment of third-grade reading promotion/retention legislation as an opportunity to pursue an integrated, statewide approach to put more children from low-income families on the path to school success.
Together with additional foundations and state agencies, as well as community stakeholders, they used the Community Solutions Action Plan framework to guide development of a10-year Strategic Literacy Action Plan, and the state of Arizona and an initial four communities submitted a unified application for the 2012 All-America City Award.
Read On Arizona’s “big tent” now involves more than 60 school districts and more than 470 partners, reaching over 250,000 low-income children in 20 Read On communities across the state. The number of funders has grown as well. Read On Arizona’s philosophy is that everyone has a role to play in promoting literacy, and it actively works with those who are interested as a “connector finding a way for them to plug in.”
Fulfilling the original vision, Read On Arizona is more than just a cluster of communities working on early literacy; it is an effort that works both “statewide and at the state level” to support and sustain strong efforts to improve early literacy.
Arizona has developed powerful information, tools and other vehicles to support early literacy efforts. Developing a Thriving Reader From the Early Years: A Continuum of Effective Literacy Practices presents key milestones for what a child should know and be able to do from birth through age 8, explores ways adults can support achievement of those milestones and highlights effective programs and practices. It provides a touchstone for early educators, parents and funders and a guide to promote wise implementation and investment choices. First Things First, the state’s early childhood agency, recently included the Continuum as part of its literacy standards of practice and funding guidelines. The Arizona Department of Education’s Teaching Reading Effectively provides teachers with intensive training to analyze data and tailor interventions to student needs. More than 150,000 families have received the Early Literacy Guide for Families. And Read On Arizona is completing development of an integrated database and accompanying mapping capacity that will provide communities with readily accessible data on 25 early literacy indicators.
Arizona further is committed to replicating and scaling what works. Among the evidence-based or promising programs that are part of its efforts are: AARP Experience Corps (volunteer tutors), Abriendo Puertas, home visiting programs, Imagination Library, Jumpstart, PBS Parents, a hybrid model connecting Reach Out and Read and Raising A Reader, and Success for All.
These programs and many others are among the ways that Arizona is addressing school readiness, attendance/chronic absence, summer learning, parent engagement and health. Two particularly notable examples: (1) this past summer’s big push on summer learning encouraged families to read with their children for at least 20 minutes every day and to visit their local library — nearly 120,000 participants read over 580,000 hours during the summer; and (2) every child in Arizona had free access to the myON Digital Library from April to December 2014 — over 85,000 books were opened.