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Phoenix Forward

Read.Play.Win! literacy program aims to improve reading skills

Read.Play.Win! literacy program aims to improve reading skills

Reading levels among students nationwide are faltering: 34 percent of fourth graders and 25 percent of eighth graders scored below the basic achievement level in reading skills for their grades, according to statistics published by the National Center for Education Statistics in November 2011. In Texas, the numbers are worse: 36 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

The Read.Play.Win!SM literacy program, developed by University of Phoenix in 2010, seeks to improve literacy levels by encouraging reading for first- through sixth-grade children.

"Reading is the building block for all other learning and is critical to long-term academic success," says Christina Robinson Grochett, vice president for the Gulf Coast territory of University of Phoenix. "If students aren't reading at grade level by sixth grade, their level of success in high school is at risk,” with a negative long-term impact on their employment opportunities and their futures.

The University is partnering with local nonprofits and sports teams, including the NBA’s Houston Rockets, to get more Houston-area students excited about books.

Kids idolize players. If a [basketball] player says reading is important, kids are more motivated to read.

The University created reading Time Outs, hosted by local businesses, to help show grade-schoolers the connection between reading ability and their future success. Students are invited to tour the business, where a Rockets player reads a book aloud about the field trip. 

"Kids idolize players," Grochett says. "If a [basketball] player says reading is important, kids are more motivated to read."

The reading Time Out trips are a fun way for kids to learn about what businesses do and how education can tie directly to careers. Students touring the fire museum, for example, learn how a criminal justice degree can apply to firefighting; kids visiting an energy company learn how an engineering degree can be put to use.

The partnership between University of Phoenix and the Houston Rockets doesn't stop there; it fosters literacy through book drives at home games and through reading challenges that reward schools whose students read the most books or log the most reading time.

“Last year, we had 2 million minutes of reading time for one school," Grochett says. "And that was outside of basic reading curriculum."

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