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Children who read outside of school tend to perform better academically, and yet—as parents and teachers can tell you—getting kids to read at home is an uphill battle. Knowing every minute counts, Philadelphia-based non-profit Springboard Collaborative partners with schools to help students clock more reading time outside the classroom and close the literacy gap in the process.

Springboard’s work has never been more urgent than during this past year as the pandemic shut down schools and disproportionately impacted low-income and minority students. Springboard doubled its programming in response.

Now, thanks to a partnership with Barclays, the organisation will expand its services even further, launching New York and Delaware programmes to support an additional 1,000 students. 

The power of 15 minutes

At the heart of Springboard's philosophy is the idea that parents can improve their children's reading skills with a little support. With that in mind, the non-profit embeds in schools, training teachers and parents to help their kids become better readers. The results are nothing short of remarkable.

Six months after Springboard's programmes, families are reading at home 18 more minutes per day on average than they did before the programme. Students continue to read an average of 26 minutes each on their own, and they receive 24 minutes of coaching from their parents.

"The magic number is 15 minutes per day," says Springboard Executive Director Andrew Karas. "That's when students start seeing substantial positive gains in reading achievement." And students who read for more than 30 minutes? They see the most significant gains of all.

Surging demand during COVID-19

The number of students in need of reading support surged during the COVID-19 crisis. Karas says that while more well-resourced schools pivoted to remote learning, low-income schools faced significant challenges. Some families lacked access to Wi-Fi and the devices needed for distance learning. In fact, the communities Springboard supports were so acutely impacted that while other schools were setting up distance learning programmes, "our schools were handing out basics like food and clothes," Karas says.

With support from Barclays, Springboard plans to mitigate some of the learning losses experienced by students living in under-resourced communities. The partnership enables Springboard to launch programmes in the Red Clay and Christina school districts in Wilmington, Delaware, and in Achievement First schools in New York City this summer and fall.

A love of reading

Looking ahead, Karas notes that the next school year will be a big adjustment as many students transition back to in-person learning. Many will need support to feel safe after a traumatic year, where some lost family members or beloved teachers. "Children are hearing these messages that they're falling behind," Karas says. "We want to support them in a joyful way that's child-centered."

Indeed, the programme's success is about improving more than students' reading skills. Karas notes the confidence and joy that students experience throughout the process. Families learn from each other. Children set goals and then blow past them.

That 15 minutes a day can be transformative for students and families alike. "Parents often say my kid is a completely different reader because of this," Karas says.

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