Helios Education Foundation and the Phoenix Final Four Local Organizing Committee today announced Mary C. O’Brien Elementary School as the Read to the Final Four Statewide Champion. Some 34,000 third graders from across the state competed in the Read to the Final Four Literacy challenge aimed at inspiring every third grader in Arizona to get excited about reading and to increase student academic achievement.
The statewide reading challenge was built off of the March Madness bracket concept where schools were broken up into regions and competed with other schools in their bracket on the number of minutes read.
Every two weeks, the winning schools advanced from 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 schools. The Final Four schools were:
- Arts Academy – Estrella Mountain – Tolleson, Arizona
- Desert Mountain School – Desert Hills, Arizona
- Parkridge Elementary School – Peoria, Arizona
- Mary C. O’Brien Elementary – Casa Grande, Arizona.
Mary C. O’Brien Elementary School received a $5,000 prize and the remaining three schools each received a $1,000 prize.
“Helios Education Foundation believes that every student, regardless of zip code, deserves a high-quality education, and we are constantly engaging with our partners to find ways of improving student achievement across our state,” said Helios’ Founding Chairman Vince Roig. “Partnering in this Read to the Final Four initiative brought so much excitement about reading to thousands of Arizona third graders and we hope it has inspired them to develop a life-long love of literacy and learning.”
Research affirms that third grade reading proficiency is a bellwether for how well students perform in middle school, high school and beyond. Studies have shown that reading at grade level by the end of third grade will help determine if students will graduate from high school on time and be prepared for success in college and career. Third grade is a pivotal time when students transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
“Congratulations to every student across Arizona who participated in Read to the Final Four – they are all winners in the classroom,” said Dawn Rogers, CEO/executive director of the Phoenix Local Organizing Committee, which is collaborating with the NCAA to host the 2017 Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. “It was so rewarding to see the platform of the Phoenix Final Four serve as incentive for our third graders to participate in this challenge. We have heard so many stories from across our state about how this program inspired children to read more often because of the Final Four. We are so thankful for the Helios Education Foundation for their commitment to literacy and the Read to the Final Four program. They have provided our third graders across the state an experience they will never forget and, we hope, will instill a lifelong love of reading.”
Helios invested $500,000 in the Read to the Final Four initiative and worked closely with MyOn -- the online platform the students used to access over 5,500 digital books -- to make the literacy challenge accessible statewide. MyOn will continue to allow the children to access the online books throughout the summer when the impacts of summer learning loss often affect student achievement.
“Congratulations to the thousands of students who participated in the Read to the Final Four challenge,” said Paul Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation. “We are thrilled with the success of this initiative and believe that these students will benefit from their focus on reading and literacy development far into the future. Thank you to the principals and teachers across Arizona who supported this great program and thank you to the parents and families who helped get their children excited about the joy of reading.”