2023 Grants Challenge

Wise Readers to Leaders summer literacy

Wise Readers to Leaders bridges the literacy gap for low-income youth through culturally relevant programs. Our free summer program serves 300+ K-8 students, offering contemporary literacy curriculum, engaging activities, meals, and field trips. Led by college students and teen volunteers, our low teacher-to-student ratio ensures holistic student development with cultural competency and trauma-informed care.


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

East LA

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West 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?

Children from low-income households face a lack of structured activities and supervision during summer, leading to academic setbacks, malnutrition, limited social interaction, and increased risks. Summer learning loss disproportionately affects disadvantaged students, widening the achievement gap. Nutritional needs are also unmet when free meals are unavailable. Research shows that voluntary summer learning programs significantly improve math and reading skills. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the achievement gap, particularly for Black and Latino students. Wise Readers to Leaders addresses these challenges through summer and year-round programs, providing literacy, academic, and social-emotional support to help students catch up.

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

Wise Readers to Leaders offers a comprehensive K-12 program arc for low-income students. The programs include: Summer Literacy and Enrichment Program (K-8th Grade): Free six-week summer program combining literacy curriculum, enrichment activities, meals, and field trips. Led by college students, with low teacher-to-student ratios and teen volunteers. Cultural competency and trauma-informed care training for staff and volunteers. Junior Literacy Leader Summer Program: Service-learning opportunity for high school volunteers to support and uplift lower-income youth. Year-round engagement through enriching experiences and leadership. Year-Round Mentorship: Virtual programs including Remote Reading, supplemental literacy classes, weekly enrichment classes, field trips, and community service projects. Supports academic growth and fosters leadership development. Parent Workshops: Bilingual workshops covering essential topics to empower parents in their children's educational journey. College Readiness and Teen Mentoring Program: Partnership with Fulfillment Fund offering college access program for high school students. Transition for program graduates to Junior Literacy Leaders, serving on Teen Leadership Board. Provides college information workshops, one-on-one advice, ongoing support, and internships. Wise Readers to Leaders aims to empower students, bridge the achievement gap, and cultivate future leaders from underprivileged backgrounds through a continuum of programs.

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

Improved academic performance among low-income students in Los Angeles County leads to: Reduced achievement gap, creating an equitable education system. Increased economic opportunities, lowering poverty rates and enhancing mobility. Enhanced workforce diversity, fostering innovation and productivity. Strengthened communities with improved social and economic conditions. Positive social impact, inspiring peers and promoting a culture of academic excellence. Long-term benefits, as successful professionals contribute back to their communities. In summary, better academic outcomes for low-income students in Los Angeles County result in equity, economic growth, diverse talent, thriving communities, inspiration, and sustained improvement.

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 various assessments to measure program success. Academic growth is evaluated through daily and pre- and post-summer assessments. In summer 2022, 83% of middle schoolers advanced one grade level in reading, while K-1st grade students learned an average of 136 sight words, surpassing grade-level expectations. Fluency is measured using Words Correct Per Minute (WCPM), with 2nd-3rd graders increasing by an average of 27 WCPM and 4th-5th graders increasing by 31 WCPM. Surveys gauge scholars' self-confidence, enjoyment of reading and learning, and parental feedback. 92% of parents reported their child will be better prepared for the next school year, 94% noted increased reading ability, and 89% observed greater confidence in their child. By combining assessments and surveys, Readers to Leaders ensures academic growth, fosters confidence and enjoyment in learning, and receives positive feedback from parents and students.

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

Direct Impact: 550

Indirect Impact: 1,500