Read Better Be Better is awarded $1.5 Million to address literacy crisis in Arizona schools

Helios Education Foundation has awarded a $1.5 million grant to Read Better Be Better to expand its evidence-based afterschool literacy programs and build a pipeline of teachers.

Under the current program, second through fourth-grade students work one-on-one with middle and high school students on core reading comprehension strategies. They meet after school twice a week for 10 weeks. This approach helps younger students become better readers while older students, referred to as leaders, improve their leadership skills.

Local high school and college students also participate as trained program coaches, giving them teaching experience and inspiring them to become teachers. This comes at a time when statewide surveys by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association constantly show about a quarter of teacher positions remain vacant.

With this support from Helios, Read Better Be Better will expand its full continuum programming to kindergartners and first graders across Maryvale in partnership with the Alhambra, Cartwright, Pendergast, and Peoria Unified school districts. Students from Glendale Community College will also participate as coaches.

“Over the years, we’ve seen the readers in our programs come back as youth leaders and become inspired to serve as teachers in their community,” said Sophie Allen-Etchart, founder and CEO of Read Better Be Better. “This grant gives us an exciting opportunity to not only expand our programs to include earlier intervention in the K-1 grades, but also to help support middle and high school students interested in becoming educators and leaders in their communities.”

There is an urgent need in Arizona to improve literacy. The most recent data shows just 41% of Arizona third-grade students scored proficient or highly proficient on the AzM2 English language arts assessment. The rate was even lower for students from low-income backgrounds (27%) and Latino students (30%).

“We have a long way to go to reach our statewide goal to have 72% of third graders reading at grade level by 2030,” said Paul J. Luna, president and CEO of Helios Education Foundation. “That is why we are partnering with Read Better Be Better and supporting their unique approach to help our youngest learners improve reading proficiency.”

Helios has invested a total of $2.2 million in Read Better Be Better’s programing aimed at improving reading proficiency. That investment includes an efficacy study that will assess the impact and effectiveness of its literacy programs.

About Read Better Be Better

RBBB’s mission is to connect young readers and youth leaders to inspire a love of literacy and learning. Since 2014, Read Better Be Better has served over 13,000 Arizona students and currently provides programming to 99 schools in 11 school districts. The organization’s after-school programs serve K-3 Readers who are paired for a semester with youth Leaders who improve their leadership skills while helping their Readers improve their literacy skills. Learn more at

About Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation exists to support postsecondary attainment for all students, especially from low-income and underrepresented communities, in Arizona and Florida. Driven by our fundamental beliefs of community, equity, investment, and partnership, Helios has invested about $350 million in partnerships and initiatives focused on improving third-grade reading, college-going, and postsecondary attainment in the two states we serve since 2006. Learn more at