Raising a Reader

Raising A Reader Massachusetts

Learning to read? It’s in the bag.

Everyone is paying attention to third-grade reading scores, including the Barr Foundation. In fact, according to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, more than 160 communities are in its network, representing 41 states, 350 school districts, and more than 8 million school children. Communities are focusing on third grade because it marks a critical transition point at which children shift from learning to read to reading to learn. Locally only 36% of third graders in Boston Public Schools read proficiently or better, so there is much work to be done.

But the path to early elementary reading proficiency starts long before children walk through the school door. It starts at home. That’s why the Barr Foundation began supporting efforts that help parents and other caregivers be successful in their most important roles—as their children’s first teacher.

Early vocabulary is an important indicator of how prepared a child is for school. And everyday interactions between a child and an adult help to build that vocabulary through talking, singing, and reading. These home routines matter, so Barr made a grant to support Raising A Reader Massachusetts’ expansion in Boston so that more families can develop their own home reading routines—regardless of home language or literacy.

Raising A Reader Massachusetts works to end the cycle of low literacy by helping families develop home reading routines that lay the groundwork for a lifetime of learning, success, and productive, responsible citizenship. This is especially important for low-income families who may not have many books in the home, or for families who may not be comfortable with their own reading proficiency.

Brought to the Commonwealth in 2006 by the Green Light Fund, Raising A Reader Massachusetts is an independent affiliate of the national Raising A Reader. Since then, the initiative has circulated almost 45,000 books to more than 38,000 children and families in the state. Six years of program data show that participating families increased their shared reading routines by 45%; non-English speaking families increased their shared reading routines by 117%; and workshop participants were almost four times more likely to ask questions while reading to their children, contributing to vocabulary development.

With Barr support, Raising A Reader Massachusetts will help families of young children from birth through age six to build a culture of literacy at home. In addition to a rotating supply of books, Raising A Reader Massachusetts offers workshops at which parents learn about dialogic reading, an interactive technique that encourages adults to prompt children with questions and engage them in discussions. With this technique, even a picture book without words can spark imagination and build vocabulary.

Raising A Reader Massachusetts’ expansion will help more vulnerable children develop the literacy skills they need for reading success, contributing in an important way to local efforts to improve Boston’s third grade reading scores.


To support Raising A Reader expansion in high-need Boston neighborhoods, focusing on low-income families and English language learners.

  • Year Awarded: 2015
  • Amount: $200,000
  • Term: 24 months
  • Program: Education

Raising A Reader Massachusetts is an evidence-based early literacy program known for its signature red-bag rotating books program. Raising A Reader is closing the academic achievement gap by helping families of young children develop, practice, and maintain habits of reading together at home.