The early literacy problem is solvable

Yet, every year, 2/3 of the Bay Area’s low-income kindergarteners arrive at school already behind. The educational need is unprecedented, but the solution is right at our fingertips – in the communities themselves!


That’s the number of Bay Area K-3rd graders who are now behind grade level in literacy after Covid. Studies show if those students don’t catch up by 3rd grade, they’ll already be four times less likely to graduate high school.

Together, we can close the early literacy gap in the Bay Area

Community Reading Buddies is an innovative double-impact program developed by Aspire Education.

1. We train middle and high school students in leadership & communication skills. 2. We then pair them with young students behind in literacy.

Thanks to this system we’re able to more than double ​​our young readers’ literacy progress over eight weeks.

The most cost-effective early literacy solution in the Bay Area

For every $300, we’re able to pair another youth mentor and young reader together and provide social-emotional training, digital literacy platform, and twice-weekly coaching.

In only 8 weeks, CRB readers make
4 months of progress in literacy

For many of our students, it is the very first time they’ll be on grade level in literacy. For K-3rd graders, this is the critical indicator of long-term educational success.

Illustration of an Early Literacy Gap in Bay Area

The solution our communities need is found in the communities themselves

We train our youth mentors in leadership & communication skills

85% of long-term career success depends on soft skills. After soft skills training and their mentorship experience, 96% of youth mentors demonstrate growth as leaders and communicators according to an adapted Youth Leadership Life Skills Development assessment.

We invite them to a community of support and pair them thoughtfully with a younger reader

Twice a week, they join 25 other youth virtually for a 15-minute training before breaking out for an hour of literacy activities with their buddy.

Their lessons are selected and guided through an award-winning digital literacy platform, BookNook

With every fun literacy activity they complete together, the platform collects data to tell the youth mentor and our team what lesson each reader can most benefit from next.

In only 8 weeks, our young readers make 4 months of literacy progress. That's unreal!

Young readers double their pace of literacy growth while with us. In fact, when you factor in cost, you will not be able to find a more effective, cost-efficient intervention anywhere in the Bay Area.

To reach the tens of thousands of Bay Area students who need us, we need your help

After considering 211 organizations, the grant-making organization Impact 100 chose Community Reading Buddies for their 2021 award, which has allowed us to triple our reach.

But to sustain that expansion, we need help.
You can be a part of the solution. 

We have the young readers
We have the youth mentors

But as a small grassroots organization, we don’t yet have the capacity. You can help us get there.

Our Partners Include:


young readers
SINCE 2013


SINCE 2014




1:1 READING HOURS since 2015

Become a Partner Today

The costs of most other early literacy programs to achieve the same results is $1,500-2,500 per student.

Cost of Community Reading Buddies:


1 youth mentor + 1 young reader


One-on-one, interactive, customized lessons are the most effective tool for developing early literacy & language skills.

CRB’s curriculum is aligned with the five core elements of the Science of Reading, including:

  • Phonological Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension

The program also brings tremendous value for our youth mentors. Through our Positive Youth Development Approach, our youth mentors are trained in and developed in:

  • Leadership
  • Confidence
  • Communication Skills

96% of youth mentors demonstrate growth as leaders and communicators.

"Every day, Shaifa was very excited for Reading Buddies and to see Michael. He made her feel like she can get better every day. I’ve never seen her in a class where she was this excited!”

– Shaifa’s Mom Sajeda, after Shaifa grew by nearly a full grade level in literacy in eight weeks

"Envy had low confidence in herself when it came to reading. And she's never really been interested in reading. Now she wants to read all the time!...I love this program!"

– Envy’s Mom Shamika, after Envy grew by a full grade level in literacy in literacy in seven weeks

"You can see the growth from the beginning to the end with the kids, and the feeling you get is just indescribable. It's really amazing to watch your Buddy's confidence grow, to watch their skills grow, and to know that you were a part of it. It just feels amazing.”

– Aniyah, CRB mentor