2022 Grants Challenge

Wise Readers to Leaders Literacy Programs

We close the achievement gap for underserved youth through summer and year-round literacy and enrichment programs. Our summer programming offers free state-of-the-art curricula and camp-style enrichment activities featuring small classes taught by college students. Our year-round programs support students academically and socially through tutoring, mentorship, classes and a college access program. Through the academic and social-emotional services, including counseling, we foster self-confidence and nurture positive attitudes towards learning.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

K-12 STEAM Education

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

San Fernando Valley

South LA

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

During the summer, children from the most challenged communities – instead of having access to stimulating camps and other programs – often suffer academic setbacks, experience malnutrition, lack stimulating play and social interaction, and are at higher risk for negative encounters with law enforcement and dangerous peer interactions. Students from low-income backgrounds lose more than 2 months in reading and 2-3 months of math achievement, while their peers from middle-class households make slight gains. The disadvantage is cumulative; by the fifth grade, lower income youth may fall more than 2 years behind their more affluent peers. The pandemic has exacerbated the achievement gap, materially affecting Black and Latino students—the students served by our program. Current research demonstrates that frequent, intensive tutoring, like our programs, is one of the most effective ways to help students make up for academic gaps.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Readers to Leaders offers free, six-week summer literacy and enrichment programming for K-8th grade students from low-income communities. The program offers a state-of-the-art literacy curriculum in the morning and camp-style enrichment activities in the afternoon. Lesson plans incorporate cultural awareness, character development and STEAM activities. Added offerings include daily breakfast and lunch, regular physical activity, weekly cultural field trips, and a concluding capstone event. Classes are taught by college and graduate students, with a teacher to student ratio of 1 to 12, plus several teen volunteers in each classroom, allowing for a level of attention to each student that is simply not achievable in classrooms during the regular school year. Readers to Leaders offers several year-round programs that provide mentorship and academic support to scholars and leadership and mentorship opportunities for high school students. Our Remote Reading program helps students develop their literacy skills, while our math tutoring program provides math support. We additionally offer supplemental literacy classes, enrichment classes, and several special events such as literacy-based activities, cross-cultural holiday events, field trips, and community service projects. Readers to Leaders is pleased to offer a new College Access Program in partnership with the Fulfillment Fund that provides college information workshops and one-on-one college advisement for seniors.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Readers to Leaders works to reduce the achievement gap by preventing summer learning loss, strengthening academic skills year-round and reversing pandemic related learning declines. Our work changes the academic trajectory of our scholars, offering educational and emotional support to help them achieve their goals. With our assistance, more students will complete high school and have more educational opportunities that ultimately lead to increased achievement, career opportunities and stability. We also value creating a more inclusive and diverse community by facilitating cross-cultural connections. We serve students from marginalized communities, most of whom are Latino while most of our volunteers come from different communities and backgrounds. Our programming fosters experiences and connections between diverse audiences that create a better understanding of the community and offers new perspectives to our students, volunteers and staff.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Readers to Leaders uses several forms of assessment to gauge program success. To measure academic growth of scholars we administer daily and pre- and post-summer assessments to determine the efficacy of our curriculum and programming. On average, 85% of our students are meeting or exceeding grade level standards, compared to only 43% of LAUSD students. Additionally, nearly 80% of students return to our program each summer, building upon their academic and social-emotional achievements year after year. We also utilize surveys to measure scholars’ self-confidence and feelings toward reading and learning. Not only do we want scholars to learn from our program, but we want scholars to enjoy reading and learning. By fostering scholars’ confidence and enjoyment, we create lifelong learners. 92% of parents reported that their child will be more prepared going into the next school year because of our program, with 94% of parents reporting their child has a higher reading ability.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 500

Indirect Impact: 0