Improving Children’s Lives One Book at a Time
Back in college, Joe Blackstone and his wife, Jamie Mohn, volunteered to read storybooks to elementary school kids. It was a wake-up call to the stark reality of childhood illiteracy, and they were appalled.
“It’s shocking to see kids at that age falling so far behind the rest of their classmates in the most basic thing, and we as a society don’t do anything about it,” Blackstone recalls thinking.
The statistics for illiteracy are grim. California has one of the lowest literacy rates in the nation. 52% of 4th graders are not reading proficiently in L.A. County and two-thirds of those students will end up in prison or on welfare.
Blackstone and Mohn took literacy matters into their own hands in 2018 with the launch of a free after-school reading program, J3’s Cozy Reading Club.
The Cozy Reading Club, the flagship program of their nonprofit, J3 Foundation, partners with high-needs schools serving predominantly students of color in Los Angeles. The goal: To reverse those crippling statistics by equipping 4th and 5th graders with the reading skills, habits, confidence, and books they need for a lifetime of success.
Since its launch in 2018, in one school with 15 students, J3’s Cozy Reading Club has expanded into 14 L.A. County schools serving over 300 students annually. So far 89% of their students have seen improvement in their standardized test scores. On average, their students have achieved a 36-point gain in their standardized assessments, which equates to 1.5 grade levels of reading skills acquired in just 60 sessions. For Blackstone and Mohn, this is proof their program is working!
While the schools supply the classroom and access to the students, J3 covers everything else – books, site coordinators, follow-ups, and they even pay the teachers at the school to help co-teach the program.
Most importantly, the books are culturally relevant to the students, with kids reading about people who look like them, such as Steph Curry, Cesar Chavez, and Mae Jemison. Their books engage the kids and make them excited to read.
Blackstone says he will never forget when a parent called to say, “My kid hated reading but now he actually enjoys it! The first time I saw him read in the car I almost cried with happiness. The first time he begged for five more minutes to read, I actually did cry. Thank you!”
Director of Operations: Bobbie Boggs-Miller
Matching Funds — $1,500 Funds a Young Reader
One of the reasons J3 Foundation has been so effective is that it’s stayed laser focused on what it does best: teaching kids to read. The Cozy Reading Club anticipates serving 700+ students this year and J3 hopes to double that number by attracting more private donations. Creating a new reader who will grow up to be a positive contributor to society costs the organization just $1,500 annually.
“I think it’s the best $1,500 we as a society could ever invest,” says Joe Blackstone, J3 Foundation co-founder. “And that number will go down as we get more students.”
Glaser Weil will match every dollar raised, up to $10,000.
To equip 4th grade scholars with the skills, habits, confidence, and book access they need for a lifetime of reading success
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I appreciate J3 for the organization’s commitment to doing everything possible when it comes to reading proficiency. It’s rewarding to see your dollars make an impact immediately. J3 Foundation is so well run that I don’t have to think twice about the actual support that’s being implemented. The rate they’re scaling is just amazing. J3 sees every child’s potential and never gives up on its mission.
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