PHOENIX — It's a corporate-community partnership that is giving children in underserved Phoenix communities the gift of reading.
When Microsoft put up $15,000 in grant money, community organization Jack & Jill Phoenix Chapter jumped at the chance to purchase books for children.
In late March, Jack & Jill presented the big check to staff and students at Rancho Santa Fe School in the Litchfield Elementary School District.
Jack & Jill Phoenix Chapter President, Jo Anne Curry, was excited to provide first- and second-graders a tremendous head start on their journey to reading.
"We will provide 25 books for 250 students within that school and that will give them the opportunity to use their imagination, to read and continue to grow in their literacy path," Curry said.
Books, Curry says, are critical resources to continue lifelong learning even outside the walls of the classroom.
"Every child should have a library in their home so they can go to their room in their home and actually have an older brother or sister read to them to help to continue with the literacy program," she said.
To purchase and distribute the books, Jack & Jill turned to KITABU, a literacy organization that's been distributing books to children for years and is affiliated with the My Kids Read Program.
"We're pleased they selected our model and we're ready to get to work," said Roy Dawson, the Executive Director of the Arizona Center for African American Resources.
Dawson helped form KITABU back in 2016. He says KITABU is a Swahili word that means "a collection of information for learning." It's a perfect fit, he says, for shining the light of education on communities that need it the most.
"Because the research says for every 25 books in the home, kids can improve their reading skills and learning competency by one grade level," Dawson said.
"The benefits of reading allow you to take your education to a higher level," Curry said.
"It allows you to open more doors in higher education, and allows you to use your imagination. You always want to be a student of life," Curry added.
Dawson says the goal of KITABU is to eventually get 100 books each into the households of minority children. He says less than 30% of African American children are reading at grade level by the third grade. But partnerships like this one between Microsoft, Jack & Jill, and KITABU go a long way in achieving that goal.