Meeting Human Needs Before Academic Needs
The classroom lights are turned off. The blinds are drawn low. J3 Cozy Reading Club is about to start at George Washington Elementary in Compton. In the middle of the room, the kids have arranged their chairs in a circle. As the J3 teachers corral them to settle down, the students begin to reel in their restless after-school energy. Ms. Weatherspoon, the kind of teacher with wide eyes and big gestures, stands at the front of the classroom.
“Now,” she asks once it has quieted down, “who wants to do the chime?”
Hands shoot up. Bottoms come off their seats. A buzz of excitement fills the circle again.
A little girl with purple braids is chosen. She hops from her chair to the front table, picks up a wooden stick, and gingerly taps the chime that sends a ding through the air, bright and clear. Almost instantly, a calm comes over the room. Inside the circle, eyes close above lingering smiles, the fidgeting stops, bodies relax, and a stillness settles in as the chime fades out.
This is just one of the many mindfulness tools and exercises J3 Foundation uses in their free after-school literacy program. Founded in 2018, they created the Cozy Reading Club to help struggling fourth graders from low-income neighborhoods become better readers so they can succeed in the classroom and beyond.
“Remember,” Ms. Weatherspoon gestures at the door. “We’re in here now, our favorite time of day. Whatever is going on out there, we leave out there.”
For the kids in this program, their lives “out there” are often riddled with trauma and stress. Many J3 students are struggling to have their basic needs met and are constantly in survival mode.
“Violence at our school right now is definitely affecting these children…The area they live in, they hear helicopters all the time. They’re thinking: I could be shot, she could be shot, what will happen to me? Kids are being aggressive with each other. That aggression is coming from a place of fear,” says Ms. King, a J3 teacher at Tibby Elementary in Compton.
J3’s Cozy Reading Club not only provides a safe space for these kids, but also equips them with the tools to better understand their emotions and how to handle them.
“When students come from a stressed home or community, we need to lower the anxiety. They can’t learn when they’re in fight or flight,” says Jamie Mohn, Psy.D., psychologist and co-founder of the J3 Foundation.
J3 uses the MindUp program and CASEL’s framework to teach mindfulness, relationship skills, and social-emotional learning to their students and teachers. Mental wellness is explicitly taught and thoughtfully woven throughout J3’s 30-week after-school literacy program.
Before the introduction of the chime exercise, J3 teachers help their kids develop the “foundation” for mindfulness with brain-based learning. On Day One of the program, the kids learn about self-awareness and emotions. On Day Two, they explore the three key parts of the brain involved in thinking and learning, and how their feelings arise. On Day Three, they learn that they have the ability to change what they do in response to bad feelings by using mindfulness techniques (like practicing mindful breathing and listening).
J3 Foundation also understands that community and connection play a huge part in the well-being and success of their students. “We needed to create a special environment where they belong, where they could be successful. We are building a club atmosphere, a community,” says Stacee Longo, J3 Senior Program Director.
Halfway through the session, a little girl volunteers to read “Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story” and makes her way to the front of the class. When she speaks, she is soft-spoken and reads slowly; it took some courage to go up there. The kids stay quiet as she reads the book from beginning to end. When she finishes, the whole class snaps their fingers in appreciation.
On her way back to her seat, she passes Mr. Myers, the J3 site coordinator who’s leaning on a desk with his fist extended.
“Hey. You did great,” he whispers.
She bumps it, smiles, then bounces away to take her spot inside the circle.
Our kids face an uncertain future. These academic and social-emotional difficulties aren’t just present in Compton. Schools across the state and country are seeing the same thing. With your donation, J3 can open their circle to the growing number of students who need their help.
Director of Operations: Bobbie Boggs-Miller
J3 is excited to announce a unique opportunity to double your donation! Glaser Weil has generously offered to match the first $10,000 in recurring donations!
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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The J3 Cozy Reading Club teaches critical reading competencies through an evidence-based and culturally-relevant curriculum. It allows our Compton students, regardless of income or background, to receive a high-quality after-school reading intervention program. As the Director of Educational Services and former K-8 school principal, I have seen how the J3 Cozy Reading Club has impacted our students’ academic and social development and continues to do so each year. Most importantly, our students love attending J3 sessions! Thank you, J3 Foundation!
Struggling to Read, J3’s Cozy Reading Club Makes it Fun
“The Cozy Reading Club, J3 Foundation’s premier reading program, is special in how intentional every piece of the two-hour after-school program is,” Stacee Longo, Sr. Program Director of J3 Foundation says. “We take a holistic approach with our students by focusing on reading skills, mindfulness, social-emotional learning, restorative practices, and so much more.”
J3 Foundation is raising $864,000 to expand its Cozy Reading Club to 24 additional schools, double its book collection from 5,000 books to 10,000, and to reach 650 more students of color who are struggling to read.
A $1,500 donation will add 100 books to the J3 collection for our students to read. A $5,000 donation will support the costs of hiring highly qualified educators from our partner schools. A $12,000 donation can fund an entire trimester for a school in need. And a $36,000 donation will fund an entire year of the Cozy Reading Club for 30 students at one school.
“The magic of our program is that we provide a safe space where all students get to rediscover the joy and magic of a good book,” says Longo.
Morgan Stanley Gift Fund
McKuin Frankel Whitehead LLP
Richardson Charitable Foundation
Once Upon a Time Bookstore
Barry Family Foundation
CTBC Bank Corp.
Glaser Weil LLP
Humberto & Maria Gray
Joel & Sherry McKuin
Lido Advisors LLC
Macquarie Capital USA
The Brentwood Inn