20 Years of Succeeding in Reading (Seed)
This year a core community program celebrates 20 years of success! In 1995, The Reading Seed Children’s Literacy program was started by a group of volunteers who wanted to positively impact children’s literacy in Pima County. In the first year, 21 volunteers trained by a UA literacy expert worked with 42 children. By 2004, Reading Seed had grown to 150 reading coaches working in 13 schools, and coordination and leadership of the program was provided solely by committed volunteers. That same year, Rotary Club of Tucson identified literacy as an issue of significant need in the community.
Jim Murphy, 2004 Rotary Club of Tucson President, stated, “We were aware of the need to help kids read based on our involvement in mentoring children at Robison Elementary School.” In addition, Murphy shared, results of focus groups from various community stakeholders convinced them that this was an area that could create a significant, positive impact in the community. Rotary Club of Tucson chose Reading Seed as its Centennial Project.
The Rotary Club of Tucson gave Reading Seed a solid start by providing almost exclusive funding from 2004-2008. Even after Reading Seed became a non-profit organization, the Rotary Club of Tucson continued its support through funding and volunteers.
In 2005, the University Of Arizona College Of Education partnered with Reading Seed in developing and implementing an impact study to measure the effectiveness of the coaching program. The study found that Reading Seed program makes a substantial impact on students, both in skills and classroom participation through its focus on one-to-one attention.
As the program continued to grow and expand, it soon needed a larger space for its growing staff and volunteer base. Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona provided an in-kind donation of office space for five years, and this commitment was renewed in 2009 for an additional five years. Rotary members provided volunteer labor and secured in-kind donations to build out the donated space into comfortable, modern offices. Office furniture and bookshelves were also donated.
In 2005, the Reading Seed Lending Library came into being with funding from the Qwest Foundation and support from the UA College of Education and the Pima County Public Library. Rotary Club of Tucson secured over $20,000 in donations to purchase the initial supply of needed books. The library grew quickly to 17,000 books for children in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Beginning in 2009 Reading Seed became one of three beneficiaries of the Tucson Festival of Books, reinforcing the need and positive impact of literacy programming in the Tucson community.
In July 2011 Reading Seed joined collaborative forces with four other Pima County literacy organizations Literacy for Life Coalition, Literacy Volunteers of Tucson, Reach Out and Read Southern Arizona, and Stories that Soar! to become Literacy Connects.
Today, Reading Seed is thriving. The Literacy Connects Lending Library continues to work with Goodwill Industries and other donors to distribute donated children’s books throughout the community. Volunteers sort and clean donated books, and books are made available to coaches, tutors, teachers and librarians, so students who would otherwise have no books of their own are provided with books they can keep. Books are available for check out in the library are “high-interest low-level books” that are grade and age appropriate and engaging to readers of all ages and levels. Reading Seed also supports many other local non-profit organizations by supplying them with free books for their clients and students.
The Reading Seed program continues to be driven by volunteers. During the 2014-2015 school year, Reading Seed served almost 1700 students in 42 schools with 554 active coaches. The Lending Library has grown to over 24,000 volumes and distributed 43,000 free books to our community.
And we aren’t finished yet! With the on-going support of our donors, funders, community partners, and dedicated staff and volunteers, Reading Seed will continue to support our schools and community by helping kids fall in love with reading and learning, one student at a time.