Raising a Reader

Raising A Reader Massachusetts

Learning to read? It’s in the bag. And it's as simple as a conversation.

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.

For young students, early reading proficiency can have a long-term impact on their educational experience: third-graders who read below grade-level are four times more likely to drop out of school than their peers. In Massachusetts, 53% of students are not reading at grade-level by the end of third grade, according to 2017 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment (MCAS) results. Early vocabulary is an important indicator of how prepared a child is for school, and for long term academic success. Everyday interactions between a child and an adult help to build that vocabulary through talking, singing, and reading.

The vision of Raising A Reader Massachusetts is to equip all parents and caregivers to become agents of change—as their children’s first teachers—to eliminate the opportunity gap that impacts success in school and beyond. With access to this program, more families can develop their own home reading routines—regardless of home language or literacy. This is especially important for low-income families who may not have many books in the home, or families who may not be comfortable with their own reading proficiency.

All parents and caregivers can become agents of change to eliminate the opportunity gap that impacts success in school and beyond.

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. The model is based on more than 30 years of research that shows the critical relationship between children’s early literacy experiences and their future academic success.

Over the past 11 years, Raising A Reader Massachusetts has circulated 48,000 books to more than 80,000 children and families in the Commonwealth. Over a decade of data show that of those who did not read together at least 3 times per week before starting the Massachusetts program, 80% had increased their reading frequency after participation, and this number is even greater for non-English speaking families. In addition, caregivers who participated in Raising A Reader Massachusetts workshops were almost four times more likely to ask questions while reading to their children—a key factor in vocabulary development.

Raising A Reader Massachusetts helps families of young children from birth through age six to build a culture of literacy at home. In addition to receiving a rotating supply of high-quality children’s books, through workshops 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 critical vocabulary.

To enhance impact, Raising A Reader Massachusetts is engaged in new and innovative ways to reach more families. Through Raising A Reader in the Workplace, corporate partners utilize an entrepreneurial model that integrates the program as an enhanced employee benefit through on site workshops and book rotation. In addition, the Parent Ambassador program engages parents who serve as champions of reading in their communities. Parent Ambassadors complete the Raising A Reader Massachusetts program and give expression to their enthusiasm by facilitating workshops and sharing their experiences with other parents. The success of this initiative has been a true testament to the power of the program, creating a multiplier effect to engage more families to talk, sing and read with their children—helping them build strong vocabularies and a love of learning.

Learn more about dialogic reading with Raising A Reader Massachusetts's modeling video below:

Dialogic Reading with your Toddler

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.