This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Brian and Aileen Roberts. (Photo: Harvey Finkle)
Thanks to a $450,000 gift from the Roberts Foundation, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia’s Right Books Campaign has reached its fundraising goal a year ahead of schedule and just in time for the 2017-18 school year.
The Fund kicked off the campaign in fall 2015 with a goal to reach $3.5 million by 2018 with donations from corporations and private contributors. The donation from Comcast Corporation CEO Brian Roberts, and his wife Aileen Kennedy Roberts, will help finance leveled libraries in every K-3 classroom throughout the District.
“This is one of the most important initiatives for Philadelphia children,” the couple said in a statement. “There is nothing more important than helping our schools give children the joy and confidence that comes from reading at an early age.”
The leveled libraries, also known as the Right Books libraries, are collections of books that cover a broad range of reading levels for early elementary students. Children can learn the fundamentals of literacy through fun and engaging topics that satisfy their interests, from athletes to superheroes, as they improve their reading.
“There is something fundamental about books at a young age getting you hooked and excited about the world right before your eyes,” said Roberts.
At Hackett Elementary, Aileen and Brian Roberts joined District leaders on a tour of the Right Books classrooms. The school was among the first to receive the Right Books libraries and intensive teacher training in reading instruction in 2016, the second year of the campaign. Within a year, reading scores on standardized tests increased by 5 percentage points.
According to the District, it will take three to five years to realize the full potential of RIght Books libraries and teaching resources, but “the impact has already been remarkable.”
“We are indebted to Aileen and Brian for bringing this campaign to a successful conclusion and giving our children a good start,” said Superintendent William Hite in a statement.
“The funds help us to fulfill a pledge to make every school a great school, to give all of our children the high-quality resources and instruction they deserve, regardless of address or zip code.”