The Need

Reading matters. It’s an early gateway skill that paves the pathway for future success. Without it, kids are simply less likely to graduate high school, find employment, or successfully avoid other hardships like poverty, homelessness, hunger, and injustice.

The third grade reading level is widely recognized as a key indicator of a child’s future educational success. A student who can’t read on grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate than a child who does read proficiently in third grade.[i] Add poverty to the mix, and a student is more than 6 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer. [ii] According to the 2017-18 Oregon Smarter Balanced Assessment, 53 percent of Oregon third-graders did not meet state reading standards.

Research proves that shared book reading and the availability of books in the home during a child’s first, formative years are the strongest predictors of early literacy skills. We provide both.

We believe that all children — regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, ability, or any other factor — should be able to access learning, happiness, and success. Deeply entrenched racial, cultural, social and economic inequalities make it harder for some children to succeed compared to others. We are deeply committed to addressing the education gap and others forms of inequity for kids because it is inextricably linked with our ability to fulfill our mission. To learn more about our commitment to equity and inclusion, click here.

The Concept

The program concept is simple: pair an adult volunteer with children for weekly one-on-one reading sessions. Volunteers model the joy of reading, while supporting the child’s efforts to read independently.

The intention of SMART Reading is to positively impact literacy outcomes by providing early reading support, access to books and community engagement to in an equitable and inclusive environment for everyone involved.

The SMART Reading program complements reading curriculum and instruction and is intended to build confident, lifelong readers who enjoy reading and use it as a tool for learning.

The Delivery Models

SMART Reading offers a variety of program delivery models to accommodate a diverse set of educational needs and environments.


[i] Double Jeopardy: How Third-grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2011.
[ii] Double Jeopardy: How Third-grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2011.