The America Reads Challenge started as a national initiative whose goal was to ensure that every child in the United States read well and independently by the end of third grade. In December 1996, former University of Maryland President Kirwan was asked by the White House to join the America Reads College Presidents Steering Committee. Dr. Kirwan agreed, and in so doing, committed that the campus would use half of its substantial increase in Federal Work-Study funding for tutoring and related community service positions. He also pledged to direct additional campus resources to literacy activities. The University of Maryland became one of the first twenty universities to participate in America Reads. Currently, over 1,400 universities nationwide have America Reads programs.
In March 1997, Dr. Kirwan established the President’s Task Force for America Reads. During the summer of 1997, the Task Force identified and invited eight elementary schools in Prince George’s County to participate in the program. These schools were selected by virtue of their proximity to campus, low reading scores, high poverty levels, and having a full-time Reading Specialist on Staff. During the Fall 1997 semester, the America Reads Staff recruited and trained more than sixty student mentors and placed them in the participating elementary schools to work with first and second grade students. In the spring of 1998, the number of Reading Mentors increased to eighty. In its second year, the program piloted the position of Team Leader, an opportunity for experienced Mentors to serve in a leadership capacity, assisting school personnel with administrative duties and acting as liaison between the school, the Reading Mentors on site, and the America Reads Staff on campus.
Based on the success of the America Reads model at both the local and national level and resulting from the need for improvement in mathematics achievement, an America Counts Program, targeted at fourth graders, was implemented beginning in the 2000-2001 academic year. The partnership between the University of Maryland and the Prince George's County Public Schools expanded to embrace this new opportunity and was renamed America Reads*America Counts to reflect this change. In 2006, America Counts expanded from one school to six schools as a result of funding from the American Honda Foundation.
Partners in Print, added during the 2004-2005 school year, is the most recent addition to the America Reads*America Counts office. Student presenters travel to Prince George’s County and Montgomery County schools to show parents how to help children become confident, successful readers. Each program, presented in English and Spanish, is geared toward children in kindergarten through second grade.
AR*AC aims to:
- Provide a strong mentoring and tutoring experience for elementary school children in the Prince George’s County Public Schools, ultimately helping more children be successful in reading and math and reducing the impact of the achievement gap
- Help University of Maryland students understand the complexities of public K through 12 education and empower them to be education advocates
- Provide University of Maryland students with the opportunity for work experience, especially in the area of teaching, and provide professional development in teaching and leadership
- Enhance the relationship between the University of Maryland and its home community, Prince George’s County
Learn About Our Programs
Find information about the AR*AC mentoring programs: