*Our 2019-2020 Annual Report is out! Give it a read by clicking here.

 

headshot of Sophie Etchart, leaning her arm on a stack of books

Read Better Be Better turned five this year. Now, I was not entirely sure which species would describe 5 as being of maturity, however, a quick Google search says it’s the echidna, which I would have bet was a type of flower—but it’s not. You really need to see the mammal mash-up that is the echidna.

Like the echidna, RBBB has always been highly adaptable, especially this past year. Our resilience, relationships, and reserve were really put to the test during 2019-2020. Of course, many of these challenges are not yet behind any of us, but I feel very comfortable celebrating the various ways that our organization has stood strong.

The first half of my year was dedicated to preparing the organization to thrive during my maternity leave. My intent was to reach our annual fundraising goal before I left in February. Of course, I had no idea that achieving this goal would sustain RBBB not just during my maternity leave, but through the harsh challenges that followed immediately after I returned.

My daughter, Joey, was born on February 4th and, for the first time since RBBB was founded in 2014, I was able to truly shift my attention from my responsibilities as the Founder and CEO. Joey needed 10 days in the NICU to show just how strong and prepared she is to take on this world, so the ability to devote all my energy to supporting her through that time is something for which I will be forever grateful. The team forged ahead with the expert leadership of Chelsea, Tammy, and Suzanne. While I have never doubted that RBBB will have a long and successful journey beyond my leadership, I still reflect on this as an important milestone.

About five weeks later the world headed into the blows of a global pandemic and economic downturn. RBBB reacted quickly and prioritized staff and community health. The office closed and all in-person programming ceased. Thanks to the generosity and flexibility of our donors, we were able to reallocate resources as we prepared to come back stronger by implementing professional development, prioritizing relationship-building, and developing the Family Literacy Kit Program that brought our reading comprehension curriculum into students’ homes. We collated and distributed over 5,000 kits from March to July at our partner schools.

Throughout the summer, our ongoing conversations with our partner educators and administrators resulted in continuing contracts with each of our 10 public school districts. Knowing that our colleagues in schools were asking for our help as they navigated the unimaginable, drove the team to work harder and smarter than we ever had before.

materials included in an RBBB media kit spread out

As the pandemic continued into Fall of 2020, we transitioned our after-school program to a home-based program called RBBB At Home. Our modified programming is based on RBBB’s curriculum proven to improve literacy skills, but implementation is shifted to the home—fostering relationships within families and households at a time when social connectedness is more important than ever. We are immensely proud of this work, which we know will generate critical impact for the immediate term, but also inform and improve outcomes beyond the pandemic.

I am also proud of the work that our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) committee has completed over the past six months, particularly in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, to which Read Better Be Better lends our full support.

Our EDI statement is as follows:
1. Equity: RBBB is committed to creating conditions in which all individuals can thrive. We collaborate to ensure all stakeholders are treated fairly and have equal access to opportunity.
2. Diversity: RBBB embraces the value and perspective that both visible and invisible differences bring to our work.
3. Inclusion: RBBB is committed to maintaining a healthy workplace climate by fostering a culture of kindness and acceptance. We recognize that every individual’s journey is unique. As such, ensuring access and inclusion should be a flexible, collaborative, and continuous process.

Our full action plan is published on our website, but two immediate and tangible successes have been to ensure that every RBBB employee has access to healthcare, and to contract with a professional translator in order to provide key communications in Spanish to such an important group in our community. There will be much more to come in this space as we strive to maintain a diverse and inclusive culture, with the equitable treatment of all.

Read Better Be Better’s constant during the past five years has been growth. This year the growth was not only in terms of increasing our district partnerships and the number of students we serve, but our organization has also developed in ways we could not have anticipated a year ago as a result of the effects of the global pandemic and the ensuing economic contraction.

the echidna wishes RBBB a happy 5 year anniversary

We are pleased that our programming is robust enough to ensure consistent delivery and guarantee our commitment to excellence, but flexible enough to adapt to a modified implementation model. This is encouraging news for the immediate future and beyond, and we all need a little of that these days. And speaking of encouragement, you really should check out the echidna right now…

 

Sending extra love to everyone this year,

Sophie Etchart