January 2019

New Literacy First Study Shows Even More Positive Longterm Effects

Literacy First was the subject of a recently completed study from local program analysis pros Agile Analytics. The study shows that Literacy First students are less likely to be retained, more likely to perform better on reading exams in the future, and other significantly positive results.

For an overview of the study, click here.

For in-depth analysis and methodology, view the Executive Summary or Full Report.

December 2018

The Cory Redding Foundation Expands Literacy First Support

The Cory Redding Foundation deepened their support of Literacy First with a $7500 gift in early December. Cory Redding, former NFL defensive tackle, University of Texas alum, and philanthropist, founded the organization  to “support quality educational, recreational, and community assistance programs that promote the development of at-risk programs.” The Foundation selects three community nonprofits each year.

In addition to this generous gift, Mr. Redding has been an honored guest and speaker at several Literacy First events, providing motivation and insight to our Literacy First tutors and leaders. Priscilla Redding is a valued Literacy First Board Member. We are grateful to have them in our Literacy First family.

Thank you to Cory, Priscilla, and the Cory Redding Foundation for your steadfast and joyful giving to Literacy First and to the Austin community.

September 2018

Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos Austin Supports Literacy First on Mexican Independence Day

Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos Austin (AEM), the Austin chapter of the Mexican Entrepreneurs Association, became a member of the Literacy First family at their annual Mexico’s Independence Day Celebration on Saturday, September 15. AEM members and friends raised $2500 for Literacy First at a beautiful event celebrating Mexican culture and heritage. Director Mary Ellen Isaacs and several Literacy First staff attended this amazing event.

We would like to thank AEM for their support. Literacy First is honored to be recognized by this prestigious group and looks forward to further partnership!


See additional photos from the event on the AEM Facebook page here.

September 2018

Literacy First Welcomes 80 AmeriCorps Members in 25th Annual Pledge Ceremony

– Featured speaker Cory Redding; former NFL defensive tackle, University of Texas alum

– Redding: “Changing children’s lives is better” than any football play he’s ever had

– AmeriCorps members to teach 1,700 children in 26 Title 1 schools to read



For the 25th year in a row, Literacy First welcomed 80 AmeriCorps members to their program in an inspiring ceremony on Tuesday, September 4th at the Thompson Conference Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The ceremony kicked off a week of intense training for the members before they begin providing literacy interventions for 1, 700 K-2nd grade students at 26 high-poverty Austin elementary schools.

Speakers included Cory Redding, former NFL defensive tackle and University of Texas alum turned philanthropist; Dr. Jacquie Porter, Statewide Director of Early Education for the Texas Education Agency; Dr. Uri Treisman, Executive Director of the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas and co-founder of Literacy First; and Dr. Mary Ellen Isaacs, Literacy First Director.

The speakers emphasized the metamorphosis that the newly minted tutors will soon experience. “In all these glorious moments, I guarantee that not only are you changing the lives of our students, but also your trajectory,” said Dr. Isaacs in opening statements.

Literacy First’s mission is no less than community transformation. National studies show that students who cannot read by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school.  Literacy First believes that obtaining early-grade reading skills gives all children the ability and vision to reach their full potential. Their charge is to bring these children up to grade level in reading by third grade, a crucial benchmark in determining success throughout their lives.

The experience transforms tutors as well. Literacy First often inspires tutors to take on a lifetime of service in education, while others go on to become leaders in public policy, law, medicine, and social services. About 20% of Literacy First tutors become teachers.

The latest cohort of AmeriCorps members will join an elite group of champions for educational equity, bringing their enthusiasm and compassion to one of Austin’s largest full-time AmeriCorps programs, and the longest-running AmeriCorps program in the state of Texas.

“Helping these children understand that they belong in the world, you have the enormous privilege of being their guides,” said Dr. Uri Triesman. He then led the auditorium in the AmeriCorps pledge, which ends with a promise to “get things done.”


Founded in 1994, Literacy First (formerly ACE: A Community for Education) provides innovative, research-based bilingual literacy intervention to struggling young readers at high-poverty, public elementary schools. Over the past two decades, our work has engaged more than 1,000 community members as tutors and has impacted over 18,000 Central Texas students. Year after year, approximately 75% of the children who receive one-to-one tutoring from Literacy First either reach grade level or make significant, measurable progress in key early reading skills every year.

Literacy First is an outreach program of the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin. The Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin works with our nation’s education systems to ensure that every student leaves school prepared for success in postsecondary education and the contemporary workplace.


June 2018

"Life in the Heights" Neighborhood Magazine Features Literacy First

Literacy First was the subject of the Making a Difference feature in Life in the Heights, the neighborhood magazine for the Pemberton Heights neighborhood in Austin. Literacy First Board members Tory Newby and Helen Watkins profiled our program beautifully. Thanks, Helen and Tory!

Permalink: Jun_2018_Life_in_the_Heights_LF_Only

May 2018

Mary Ellen Isaacs featured on the Charles A. Dana Center Blog

Literacy First Director Mary Ellen Isaacs was one of the first guest bloggers requested for the new Charles A. Dana Center blog. Writing about the reasoning and process behind our program, Mary Ellen describes the challenges of learning without strong reading skills in “Learning to Read; Reading to Learn.”

Dana Center website:

Permalink: UTDC blog 2018 – MEI

March 2018

Literacy First unveils the new and improved website!

For some time now, we have wanted to better connect with our supporters, partners and prospective tutors. We’re excited about our new ‘look’ and look forward to sharing more stories with you.

January 2018

RetailMeNot, Inc. becomes Dr. Seuss Reading Day’s first financial sponsor!

We are so grateful to have RetailMeNot’s support for many years now. This year, they are teaming up with our affinity group, Lawyers for Literacy as our guests get an opportunity to read to a child. You don’t want to miss this event!

November 2017

Literacy First has a new home!

We are now located at the West Pickle Research Center in northwest Austin. Our work is still very much in the schools where we serve, but we are loving our new digs. Our new address is 3925 W Braker Lane Suite 3.801 Austin, TX 78759

August 2017

Literacy First Director featured in Austin Woman Magazine

Literacy First Director Mary Ellen Isaacs was interviewed about our program in Austin Woman‘s online August issue. Mary Ellen about the importance of literacy and the effects of socio-economic status on education in “Literacy First: Bridging the Education Gap” – and provides a great summer reading list for new readers.

Austin Woman website:

Permalink: AW August 2017

March 2017

The Alcalde features Literacy First

The Alcalde, The University of Texas’s alumni magazine profiled the Literacy First program in the March 2017 online edition. The article provides a comprehensive overview of the program, a vivid description of a site visit, and quotes from several UT alums who became tutors.

The Alcalde website:

Permalink: The Alcalde 03-01-2017

September 2016

Our New Name Revealed!

This is what you all have been waiting for. Watch all the way through to the end to find out what our new name will be, starting TODAY.