About Us

About Read On Arizona

Education is a key priority in Arizona.

It’s vital to the future of each student, family and community. And it’s vital to our state’s economic prosperity, quality of life and civic health. We need our kids to be successful in school and prepared for college and career.

Reading is the foundational skill for school success.

Literacy impacts every aspect of a child’s academic achievement across all subjects, including science, math and social studies. Children learn to read, then read to learn.

But learning to read doesn’t happen automatically.

Unlike language, our brains aren’t pre-wired for reading. It’s a complex skill that is learned, with time and effort, as new connections are formed between the visual and oral language areas of the brain. And decoding letters and words is just the beginning. Proficient readers also have the fluency, vocabulary and background knowledge to make meaning from what they read.

Early literacy starts before kindergarten.

The building blocks of reading start developing from birth. The early childhood years — when the brain develops more than any other time in life — are crucial for developing the language, vocabulary and other pre-literacy skills that are the foundation for learning to read.

Almost all children can learn to read.

With the right support and instruction, the vast majority of children can learn to read. (Researchers estimate that only 2 to 5 percent can’t, mostly due to developmental disorders or profound neurological problems.) Regardless of their economic, ethnic or any other status, we can teach our kids to read, and read well.

Third grade is a crucial milestone.

Research shows that reading proficiency at the end of third grade is a strong predictor of future academic success, including high school graduation and college attendance. Children who don’t learn to read well by third grade are much more likely to drop out of high school. As a result, they’re unlikely to develop the skills for career success, and they’re more likely to end up in the criminal justice system and to live in poverty.


Read On Arizona is our state’s early literacy initiative.

Launched in 2013, partners in Read On Arizona take a collective impact approach to improving language and literacy outcomes for Arizona’s children from birth to age eight, with strategic focus on school readiness and third-grade reading proficiency.

Read On Arizona isn’t a non-profit organization or an awareness campaign. It’s a statewide collaboration. Led by the state literacy director, it’s a commitment among the key players in education and philanthropy in Arizona to work together in coordination and alignment, share data, maximize investments, and take the strategic, comprehensive, collective approach required to drive large-scale change.

The Read On Arizona collaboration provides leadership at the state level through an advisory board consisting of members from the founding partners — First Things First, Arizona Department of Education, Arizona Community Foundation, Helios Education Foundation, and Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust — as well as the Arizona State Board of Education, the Governor’s Office of Education, and several other philanthropic organizations and key literacy stakeholders.

Read On Arizona also supports local literacy efforts through a network of Read On communities. Each works with a wide array of local stakeholders, including schools and school districts, local governments, early learning programs, businesses, faith communities, and non-profit organizations working directly with families. Each applies the same strategic approaches of the statewide Read On Arizona collaboration to coordinate and maximize their collective efforts in their local community.


Guiding Principles

The following principles have guided our collective work to date and remain essential to achieving Arizona’s long-term goals for third-grade reading success:

  • Collaboration and Sustainability: The ongoing commitment of state and local partners to work collectively — in alignment with shared goals, measures, strategies and investments — is key to an effective near-term response to the crisis as well as long-term, large-scale improvement in third-grade reading outcomes.
  • Equitable Access: Targeted strategies and investments are needed to eliminate the persistent achievement gap between all students and several important subgroups, especially economically-disadvantaged students.
  • Data Sharing and Analysis: Comprehensive data and effective data analysis should inform strategies, identify gaps and trends, and drive instructional decisions at all levels, from state to student.
  • Policy: Meaningful change is driven by a shared policy agenda related to early literacy.
  • Communication: Consistent messaging around early literacy priorities is needed to raise awareness and fuel collaboration among partners, practitioners, and Arizona families.

Strategic Priorities

  • Effective Teaching and Learning: Deliver high-quality, language-rich learning experiences and evidence-based, effective PK-3 literacy instruction and interventions for all young children in early learning settings and PK-3 classrooms. That means committing to literacy instruction and supports based in the science of reading while also meeting the social-emotional needs of our young children that are primary to their learning.
  • Family and Community Engagement: Connect families with high-quality, developmentally-appropriate tools, resources, and information so they can effectively support their child’s language and early literacy development. Because early literacy outcomes are driven by the learning that happens at home and in community settings as well as in the classroom.
  • Screening and Assessment: Enhance Arizona’s system of screening and assessment from early childhood to third grade to establish comprehensive, evidence-based measures, identify children who are at risk, and ensure that each child receives the support needed to achieve early literacy milestones.