FIU reading program receives national award for its community impact

The Reading Explorers Program at FIU’s Center for Children and Families was nationally recognized with a Pacesetter Award for supporting early school success and demonstrating observable progress in its summer and afterschool programs.

counselors of the program with the kids

The award was presented by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in recognition for the program’s efforts to serve more than 2,000 children across Miami-Dade County each year. Some children who were reading below grade level and complete the program improved their reading skills by as much as 50 percent. Since 2013 the program has helped more than 10,000 children and families.

“This work is even more important now given the impact of COVID-19 on our children’s learning,” said Katie Hart, FIU psychology associate professor and director of the Reading Explorers Program. “We need to come together and leverage our resources to ensure our children are ready to learn, ready to read, and ready to be successful in school and in life.”

Managed and operated by the FIU Center for Children and Families in partnership with Nova Southeastern University, the Reading Explorers Program offers year-round services funded by The Children’s Trust to providers and families to help improve foundational reading skills for rising kindergarten, first and second graders.

Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success, said Hart. In South Florida, only 61 percent of children meet this critical benchmark. Early intervention is key to ensuring that children enter early school years with the skills needed to be successful readers.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading focuses on promoting reading proficiency by the end of third grade, with a goal of ensuring that children from economically challenged families succeed in school and graduate from high school prepared for college, a career and active citizenship.

The Reading Explorers Program was one of 16 programs nationally recognized as a Pacesetter in the areas of school readiness, school attendance/chronic absence, summer and afterschool, healthy development, parent success and grade-level proficiency.

“We are both humbled and excited to be awarded the Pacesetter designation for our efforts and the possibility of serving as a model for other communities who are similarly working to ensure grade-level reading for all children,” said Angela Waguespack, NSU psychology professor and Reading Explorers Program co-director. 

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading received 214 self-nominations from 50 communities representing 23 states and one Canadian province. The nominations were considered, sorted and ranked by panels of community-based peer reviewers.

“We are so grateful to be receiving this recognition along with other communities across the country,” Hart said. “This work would not be possible without our dynamic community partners, our incredible team of master educators, university students, staff, and administrators, and the continued support from our funders, The Children’s Trust.”