A Strong Start

Tackling the achievement gap is one of the toughest problems in early education. Co-founders Executive Director and education expert Dr. Uri Treisman and Jackie McCaffrey, Deputy Director at The University of Texas at Austin, along with key advisor Dr. Gay Su Pinell of Ohio State University, took on that challenge. The program they imagined would leverage the human capital of AmeriCorps to deliver early literacy interventions that could put children in low-income schools on a path for lifelong success. We are grateful to the indispensable roles co-founder Jackie McCaffrey and Sue Constable and Bryan Murdock, early directors of the program, played in the creation of what is now Literacy First.

Building The Program

From the beginning, we focused on outcomes — building an evidence-based curriculum, an effective early literacy tutoring model, and growing parent involvement. Ensuring our program was fully bilingual and able to meet the needs of Central Texas’ growing Hispanic population became part of our DNA.

Extending Our Reach

By 2009, we had evidence that our biggest impact came from our intensive and focused work at kindergarten, first, and second grade. By shifting our tutoring to daily 30-minute sessions, we were able to reach twice as many students with stronger outcomes. With our methods set, we turned toward ongoing strategy building with school districts and other key partners.

Bright Futures Ahead

By 2016, we’d grown from 30 tutors serving 250 students/year to 100 tutors serving nearly 2,000 students/year. We’ve exceeded the wildest dreams of our founders. Since we began, we have helped more than 20,000 children learn to read, and our tutors have contributed over 1.25 million hours of direct service to our community. We’re nationally recognized and deeply respected locally. And we’re just getting started.

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