More Young Readers Means Fewer Prisons
Diane Ausbon had every reason to drop fourth grader Jolonne from J3’s reading intervention program when he wouldn’t stop disrupting other students and disrespecting his teachers. Jolonne was reading two levels below his grade. But Ausbon, local Los Angeles Site Coordinator for J3 Foundation, knows well enough to persevere in these cases.
“I didn’t want to see another young Black boy miss this phenomenal opportunity based on what I knew was his need to be seen, or on typical low expectations for Black children,” Ausbon recalls.
Ausbon also knows that literacy can be the difference maker for staying out of prison. Studies show that two out of three students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up incarcerated or on welfare as adults. It’s one of multiple key data points that guide the research-based programing of J3 Foundation, a nonprofit driven to increase child literacy in the Los Angeles area.
J3’s high student-teacher ratio sets it apart. When Ausbon saw Jolonne struggling, she had the time and resources to truly reach him. “As a team, we held onto this child,” she explains. Ausbon met with his teachers and his guardian, implementing advice from J3’s educational expert. As the year progressed, he volunteered to read with other students. He even started to help those students when they struggled with words. That is how J3 turns a failing student into a thriving leader.
“No one wants to say it, but the private prison system tracks a key number when predicting how many prisons will need to be built for the next 10 years. That number is the third-grade illiteracy rate,” says Joe Blackstone, who co-founded J3 Foundation with his wife, Jamie Mohn, in 2018.
The primary objective of J3 Foundation is to increase literacy rates in early childhood so that no child leaves the school system so ill-equipped and demoralized that prison is their inevitable future. J3 Foundation excels at everything needed to get there. Last year, its Cozy Reading Club, a free literacy program for fourth-graders, increased the reading levels of students by a grade and a half.
“We have students who start out well below grade level and are not excited to go to school,” says Outreach Coordinator Beth Anderson. “They’ve learned that school is a place where they can’t succeed and they spend their time getting reprimanded. When they come through J3, they get this passion for learning; this excitement. Their world opens up.”
Jolonne is no exception. By the end of J3’s session, he was volunteering to read aloud. Hugging his favorite book he declared, “Now I can read anything.”
And now he can BE anything.
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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