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 their proficient, wealthier peer. [ii] According to the 2022-23 Oregon Smarter Balanced Assessment, only 40% percent of Oregon third-graders met 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 childrenregardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, ability, or any other factorshould 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 other 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 shared reading sessions and provide children with books to keep. 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 in an equitable and inclusive environment for everyone involved.

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

In the Portland Metro Area, the Children’s Book Bank at SMART Reading ensures children have access to high-quality, diverse books at home by accepting gently used and new books from the community to distribute to kids from birth to 8th grade.

Click here to view our SMART Reading Program Standards.

The Delivery Models

SMART Reading offers two main delivery models to accommodate different educational needs and environments: One-to-One SMART, which pairs a student and a volunteer to read together, and Classroom SMART, which brings in a special guest volunteer to read to the entire classroom. 

[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.