Jump to page:

Barbara Bush Foundation’s Intensive Reading Programs Yield Impressive Results

~ Participating students show 61% more growth in reading skills than their non-participating peers ~

Maine – A public charity, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy is marking this September as its 20th year of supporting and operating literacy programs in Maine. As part of a month-long focus on Maine, the Foundation is releasing an independent evaluation of its intensive reading program, Teen Trendsetters™ reading mentors, along with a compendium detailing the $6 million invested to date.

This three-generation family literacy program engages both parents and volunteer teen mentors to support literacy skill development in 1st or 2nd grade students who are, on average, half a year behind in reading. Parents sign a contract agreeing to read with their child at least twice a week, and over the course of the program, children receive 15 books to add to their personal home libraries. Each student is also paired with a teen who has been trained as a reading mentor, and the pairs meet weekly to practice reading during one-on-one mentoring sessions.

“Parental engagement is too often an overlooked component of student success,” said Liza McFadden, President and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. “Our program leverages the incredible power of parenting, empowering moms and dads to take active roles in helping their children gain vital literacy skills.”

During the 2015-16 academic year, the Foundation operated 15 Teen Trendsetters programs that engaged nearly 300 pairs of teens (mentors) and elementary school students (mentees). Dr. Craig A. Mason, professor of Education and Applied Quantitative Methods from the University of Maine, recently conducted an independent evaluation of these programs, including a comparison study revealing that participating elementary school students showed 61% more growth than their peers who did not take part in the program, gaining nearly half a year’s worth of additional reading skills.

“The results of the comparison study provide even stronger evidence that the program is having a meaningful impact on student reading ability, helping these youth to close the gap with their peers,” said Dr. Mason.

The program focuses on improving reading skills in 1st and 2nd graders, as these students are at a critical period for the development of literacy skills. According to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who do not read proficiently by the 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. The Maine Department of Education has also identified literacy development in early elementary school students as a key factor in long-term student success.

“The leadership role of the Barbara Bush Foundation in family literacy is as important to family vitality as it is to educational literacy,” said Dr. Bill Beardsley, Deputy Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “We in Maine are already seeing measurable positive outcomes in the Foundation’s Teen Trendsetters initiative, which shows promise as we strive to close Maine’s persistent income/achievement gap. We look forward to aligning our new ‘Literacy by Age 8 Initiative’ with the Foundation’s innovative approaches to family literacy.”

During the 2016-17 school year, the Foundation will operate 18 Teen Trendsetters reading mentors programsthroughout the state (see attached program list).

As Biddeford Primary School gears up for its second year of programming, Superintendent Jeremy Ray stated, “Nearly two out of three students in our district are eligible for free and reduced lunch, a widely-used poverty metric. Students whose bellies need nourishment often need their minds nourished, too. The Teen Trendsetters program has done just that. By connecting high schoolers with elementary students, and furnishing hundreds of free books to Biddeford youth, the Barbara Bush Foundation has made a very real and tangible impact in the lives of students. The science of early literacy is unimpeachable; we are so grateful that the Foundation has helped us stretch our budget and further serve our kids—especially those in need.”

The new Teen Trendsetter reading mentors program was initially launched in Maine thanks to a generous gift from the Gorman Foundation. Ongoing support by individuals and partners like Unum, the Rugged Elegance Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. Mike and Robin Shea allow the Barbara Bush Foundation to offer programs at no cost.

About the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy: The Barbara Bush Foundation is the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy. The Foundation was established by Mrs. Barbara Bush in 1989, and today is a public charity that aspires to achieve a vision of fostering the opportunity for every man, woman and child to secure a better life through literacy. Learn more about the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy’s commitment to promote family literacy in homes across America at www.BarbaraBush.org or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter (@BarbaraBushFdn).

Contact: Lauren Sproull  | 850.562.5300 | lauren.sproull@barbarabush.org

Get in Touch

You may also contact us by phone at 850.562.5300 or by mail at:
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
516 North Adams Street • Tallahassee, Florida 32301