Getting SMART: Advancing Literacy in Oregon

Photo Courtesy of SMART Reading Instagram - @smartreadingor

Photo Courtesy of SMART Reading Instagram - @smartreadingor

For more than a decade, AVANGRID has been a leader in promoting children’s literacy in Oregon through a partnership with SMART Reading (formerly Start Making a Reader Today), working to help achieve a shared vision of an Oregon where all children can realize their full potential through reading. SMART is an award-winning nonprofit organization preparing thousands of Oregon children to be motivated, successful readers.

Photo Courtesy of SMART Reading

Photo Courtesy of SMART Reading

Building on a tradition started by and continued with Avangrid Renewables, since 2016 funding has grown in partnership with the Avangrid Foundation.  AVANGRID  is a key partner in this work, through Foundation grant funding for Sponsor A SMART School Initiative, local support for statewide SMART Reading events and through employee volunteerism.

At AVANGRID, we understand that in order to develop the leaders of the future, kids need to have a grasp of the fundamentals from an early age with proven methods.

According to SMART, in Oregon, kids aren’t meeting reading benchmarks, despite the efforts of hard-working educators. Studies prove that becoming confident, skilled readers early in life readies kids for future learning and provides benefits and opportunities that remain with them for life.

SMART Reading serves kids in Oregon’s highest need schools statewide with two critical ingredients for literacy success: one-on-one reading time and access to books.

 In this low-cost, high-impact community-based model, SMART mobilizes 5,000 volunteers each year to read with 11,000 Pre-K through third-grade kids, building confidence, literacy skills and a love of reading. SMART provide each child with 14 new books a year to keep and add to their personal library.

Through this initiative, which invites businesses and foundations to sponsor a local SMART Reading program in their community, Avangrid Foundation & Avangrid Renewables have provided funding and volunteer support to programs in four areas across the state: Condon Child Care in Condon, Conger Elementary in Klamath Falls, Crooked River Elementary in Prineville, and Irvington Elementary in Portland.

During the 2019-20 school year, this support will help bring a love of reading and learning to more than 230 kids in Oregon communities and connect over 150 volunteers to students where employees live and work.

Importantly, this commitment to children’s literacy is making a difference.

88% of SMART Reading students showed improved confidence in their reading skills, and more than two-thirds met or exceeded reading benchmarks, compared to less than half of third-graders statewide.


How is our investment having an impact?

In the 2017-18 year data showed:
- 93% of participating students showed some or major improvement in the confidence they had in their reading skills
- Over three-quarters met or exceeded benchmarks in reading comprehension
- Well over 80% met or exceeded benchmarks in reading motivation and social emotional development
- Over 96% of participating students showed improvement in their expression of enjoyment of reading or being read to
- Over 97% of teachers and administrators indicated that the SMART program contributed to the learning and growth of participating students

Photo Courtesy of SMART Reading

Photo Courtesy of SMART Reading

Kenetha Mayo, an alumna of SMART Reading in Portland, cherished the books she received from SMART Reading. “These books were the first ones that were truly mine,” she says. “I read them all the time and I didn’t have to worry about wrinkling the pages.” .

When asked about the impact SMART Reading had on her life, Mayo is clear: “SMART really impacted every aspect of my life. Starting so young, it helped me build confidence in myself as a person and as a student.”

This critical work, which has reached over 222,000 Oregon kids and put over 2.7 million books in their hands since 1992, would not be possible without companies like AVANGRID that believe that this is a “SMART” investment in the future generation of Oregonians.

As a teacher I've witnessed first-hand the impact SMART has had on our community's children. I've seen it take a third-grade girl who sat slumped in her chair when her volunteer reader first began reading with her and change her into a girl who bounced into the SMART room exclaiming, ‘I can't wait to read today!’ I've seen it turn the withdrawn and despondent child who NEVER smiled into an elated child who beamed with brightness when she saw her volunteer reader walk through the door. Greatest of all I have seen every child I've worked with who participated in this program grow as a person and as a reader. In this day and age of high-stakes testing and a focus on ‘passing the test’. I'm grateful for the SMART program that partners with teachers to foster teaching our children to be life-long readers instead of life-long test-takers. Every minute our SMART volunteers give makes a life-changing impact." - Educator

September is National Literacy Month in the United States, a month-long celebration of reading and recognition of the critical importance it plays in our lives. In honor of National Literacy Month, we invite you to learn more about SMART and help create the next generation of readers and leaders.

To learn more, or sign up to volunteer, visit


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The Avangrid Foundation is dedicated to the advancement of arts, culture, and heritage as well as to the enrichment of our communities in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

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