It was 25 years ago this month that former First Lady Barbara Bush launched a national effort to teach low-income parents to read and to encourage their young children to read as well.
Today, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy supports 1,500 literacy programs across the country with grants from $25,000 to $125,000, according to an article in USA Today. According to a press release, the foundation has awarded $50 million in grants and scholarships supporting literacy in all 50 states.
The Tallahassee, Fla.-based foundation funds programs that teach young parents to read and write and assist them as they work to earn GEDs. The programs also provide early-childhood education for the parents’ children.
“If everyone could read and write, all the problems I worried about could be solved,” Bush, 89, said in the story. “If you can’t read, you can’t do anything.”
Liza McFadden, the foundation’s chief executive officer, told USA Today that on average, parents in the literacy programs increase their reading and writing grade level by almost two grades in a year. The average participant reads at a 5th grade level when he or she starts.
According to the foundation, 90 percent of preschoolers who enroll in its programs at the lowest literacy levels finish the school year on par with their peers and prepared for kindergarten. The average elementary school student starts the foundation’s mentoring program more than a year behind in reading and gains 1.14 years in reading skills by the school year’s end. Meanwhile, the foundation touts that 82 percent of its teen mentors enroll in college.
A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.