Education Matters: AR Kids Read to disburse thousands of books to kids

More Book-A-Thon

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark.– Every week, 7-year-old Rodrigo looks forward to reading several books to his mentor, Donald Wood. The second-grader has shown more interest in picking up a book.

“It takes me to a different place,” says Rodrigo.

To instill a love of reading, a $24,425 dollar grant was awarded to AR Kids Read, a non-profit dedicated to helping kids read at grade level. The money was donated by First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education. It will go towards new books that will go to elementary school children living in low-income communities.

“The literacy part is the main part and obviously that’s the goal, but the main part is just the relationship we build with them,” says Donald Wood, Volunteer.

Rodrigo, 7, reads one of four books AR Kids Read Volunteer Donald Wood gave to him.

Donald has volunteered since AR Kids Read first started in 2012, after learning up to 70 percent of children are not reading at grade level.

“Those students who are not reading at grade level, those are predictors of students going to prison or not graduating high school,” says Donald.

The mission is also important to Tjuana Byrd. The improvements she’s seeing in the children she tutors show her, these new books and weekly tutoring is working.

“I’m excited she enjoys reading, I don’t have to press her to read, she picks a book she likes,” says Tjuana Byrd, Volunteer.

Research finds books in the home improves educational outcomes, yet low-income communities across the nation are plagued by vast book deserts. That’s why the grant money will go along way and get books to kids who don’t have one at home.

“It’s making a difference because it’s just another opportunity for them to have to read,” says Tjuana.

AR Kids Read will give away several thousand books this spring semester. The non-profit is always looking for volunteers and accepting book donations. You can contact them here

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Susanne’s Mission

Susanne Brunner is the Morning Anchor on KARK 4 TODAY and also shares weekly education reports. Some have highlighted positive stories about the importance of reading at an early age and ensuring more children have a book of their own. Susanne’s goal is to write stories that teach kids valuable life lessons. She also hopes her published book “Busker the Tusker” helps build a special bond between children and their parents. Growing up, Susanne’s mom told her a special bedtime story that she remembers and holds dear to this day. That memory encouraged Susanne to create a tale of her own to tell, which is how “Busker the Tusker” came to life. Click here to learn more about the book 

 Susanne Brunner’s Book-A-Thon: 10 Books. 10 Weeks., is a reading initiative she launched in September 2019 to encourage more children to pick up a book to read. Susanne and Busker are visiting schools across Arkansas to read his story and to inspire kids to take the pledge to read 10 books in 10 weeks. You can download and print the pledge on this site. Once kids finish their reading adventure, Susanne and Busker will give them a certificate of completion. Her goal is to reach as many kids as possible, teach them the importance of reading, and help make a difference in Arkansas’ reading deficit. What are you waiting for? Join Susanne’s reading adventure!

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Arkansas’ Reading Deficit

  • Only 31% of Arkansas’ 4th-grade students are proficient in reading (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2015).
  • Arkansas ranks in the lower third in reading scores in comparison to other states (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2015).
  • One-third of Arkansas schools report average literacy scores lower than 25 percent (Department of Education in Arkansas, 2015).
  • Only 39% of Arkansas’ graduating seniors met reading readiness benchmarks on the ACT (2015).

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