Students at Florida high schools in Miami-Dade and Polk counties recently celebrated their impact as mentors in the Barbara Bush Foundation’s Teen Trendsetters® reading mentoring program, made possible by support from State Farm.
Teen Trendsetters is a reading mentoring program that pairs teen mentors with students in first, second and third grades who are, on average, four months behind in reading. Teens receive training as reading mentors, and meet regularly with their mentees for one-on-one mentoring sessions, using a curriculum specifically designed to improve children’s reading skills.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Barbara Bush Foundation has avoided disruption of services to remote learners by launching a new digital model of the Teen Trendsetters program in 2020. Struggling elementary school readers now have the option to meet virtually with their mentors through district approved teleconference platforms, with full online access to program materials, so that they can continue building literacy skills no matter where they are learning.
State Farm is a longtime champion of the Barbara Bush Foundation and the Teen Trendsetters program, having provided more than $1.1 million in support since 2004. They have provided $100,000 in support for the program since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, helping the Barbara Bush Foundation pivot rapidly to serve both remote and in-person learners.
“State Farm is proud to support the Teen Trendsetters program – especially now, as our nation’s students face unprecedented disruptions in their learning,” said Jose Soto, Corporate Responsibility Analyst for State Farm. “Whether they’re learning in person or virtually, we’re thrilled by all that these students have achieved, and we know that the skills they’re building today will put them on the path to success for many years to come.”
Teen Trendsetters is regularly evaluated by third-party, independent researchers, achieving impressive results. For the 2019-2020 school year, an evaluation revealed that reading skills increased 1.06 grade levels in seven months for participating students, demonstrating 56 percent more growth than expected for the average student. Teen mentors gained community service hours and reported improved
leadership, communication, and teamwork skills.
“With national experts projecting that an entire generation of students could fall as much as a year behind due to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever that struggling young readers get the support they need to keep progressing,” said British A. Robinson, president and CEO of the Barbara Bush
Foundation. “We’re grateful to State Farm for helping us evolve this long-running program to serve remote learners when it mattered most, ensuring that no students were left behind.”
Grade-level reading during the early elementary years is a key indicator of future success. Students who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. The Teen Trendsetters program works to close this gap by
leveraging an innovative combination of high-quality curriculum, research-proven mentoring techniques and parental engagement.
In addition to boosting literacy skills in young readers, the program provides resources that equip parents to fulfill their essential role as—in the words of Barbara Bush—their child’s “first and best teacher.” Each book that children read with their teen mentor is added to their home libraries,
accompanied by a parent guide that engages caregivers by providing literacy activities for home. Parent guides also provide free access to an adult literacy app for parents who wish to improve their own literacy skills without attending classes.
About the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy: The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has been the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy for more than three decades. Established by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989, the Foundation is a public charity dedicated to creating a stronger, more equitable America in which everyone can read, write and comprehend in order to navigate the world with dignity. To learn more, visit www.BarbaraBush.org.