learn / 2016

Reading Makes A Difference: Inspiring Kids to Read & Care About Others

Reading Makes A Difference: Inspiring Kids to Read & Care About Others

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by The Jester & Pharley Phund

We will ignite a love for reading while developing compassion among low-income elementary students who will join a read-a-thon to give ill kids in their community uplifting “Jester” books & dolls.


Please describe your project proposal.

We will bring our Reading Makes A Difference program to 5 low-income elementary schools to develop a love of reading and kindness through read-a-thons benefiting ill kids. Student reading results in “Jester” books & dolls given to local hospitals in the name of the school & LA2050. Following inspiring Introductory Assemblies, all classrooms receive a “Jester” book & set of 3 educator enrichment manuals, with a final Recognition Assembly showcasing student reading achievements and compassion.

Which of the learn metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • District-wide graduation rates
  • Proficiency in English and Language Arts and Math
  • Early education
  • Student education pipeline
  • Suspension and expulsion rates
  • Truancy rates in elementary and middle schools

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • South LA
  • South Bay
  • Gateway Cities
  • LAUSD
  • Inglewood

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to learn?

L.A. will become the best place to LEARN when more low-income elementary students discover the joy & importance of reading & giving. The RMD program–with “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle” as its inspiration–is the catalyst for this empowering experience.Students read in free time not to gain anything for themselves but to help sick kids. Students fall in love with the story of a banished Jester on a quest to rediscover laughter, only to find it in the heart of a little girl in the hospital.They realize how much the book & doll will help real kids, and the world changes for them. When young children are introduced to giving back, they make more positive choices. Instead of going down the wrong path,they find fulfillment helping others. Schools are likely to see truancy & suspension rates go down, as graduation rates rise and students stay in the education pipeline. When their school supports a charitable venture that changes lives around them, the experience transforms students’ own lives. “The outreach component of your program motivated many of our students to perform community service,” said one of many principals. “Your program provides a wonderful catalyst for understanding the importance of giving of ourselves to help others.” We have worked closely with educators in 170 Title I schools, motivating 104,769 students to read 36,110,952 pages. Our plan is to build systemic change through the children we inspire. We address the high percentage of illiteracy among low-income elementary students, most of whom do not perform well on standardized tests. In L.A., 54% of 4th graders eligible for free lunch read at a level considered “below basic.” Among Latino students, 56% read below basic compared to 16% of Caucasian students. Children who suffer failure in the classroom lose interest in school at an early age, a predictor of dropping out of high school. A N.Y. Times report on an NEA study reinforces the importance of reading for pleasure on student achievement: “The data showed that students who read for fun nearly every day performed better on reading tests than those who reported reading never or hardly at all.” Students also become personally engaged in helping others with our program. A 5th grader at Vermont Elementary in an RMD program funded by USC’s Good Neighbors Campaign decided that she and fellow Tigers should add to the “Jester” books & dolls generated by student reading for Children’s Hospital. Although most Vermont students receive free lunch, they rallied to collect loose change to help even more CHLA patients. When the principal announced at the Recognition Assembly that students raised $330, the CHLA Trauma Program Manager’s eyes filled with tears. “You all have such good hearts,” she told students who were waving hand-made Pharleys. “This is such a beautiful thing to do. You have no idea how much you will be helping our young patients who have been injured in accidents and need smiles. Your thoughtfulness is beyond measure.’

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

We expect to see: •Increased student interest in reading •Raised test scores •Increased student compassion •Teachers’ use of Jester teaching resources •Hospital use of Jester therapeutic tools for patients •Positive response from patients and families to “Jester” books & dolls We measure these outcomes by evaluating reading logs and questionnaires given teachers and administrators observing student behaviors and parent participation, including: •The total pages read by the student body & individual classrooms •The number of pages read by top readers •The number of students raising their grade-level reading •The number of students reading more challenging books & increasing fluency •Published standardized test-score results released after the program •Anecdotal reports from teachers on increased acts of kindness by students Teachers observe that an average of 72% of their students showed increased concern for others during and after our program. A 4th grade teacher in Central L.A. reported that students “became more aware of various causes and thought of ways they could help in the world.” An East L.A. 5th grade teacher noted that “My students became conscious about how they treat each other. They refrained from teasing and calling each other funny names. They learned how to respect people.”

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Advisors/board members
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Network/relationship support