The Orlando Magic Youth Foundation is gifting $50,000 to support UCF’s iREAD program, an intervention program for students who do not show reading proficiency. The funds will help bolster reading skills in schoolchildren who participate in iREAD (intensive Reading Enrichment for Academic Development).

The iREAD program, within UCF’s Communication Disorders Clinic, is a four-week course that addresses phonological and phonemic awareness, spelling, reading fluency and comprehension, written expression, and oral language skills.

An Annie E. Casey Foundation study found an inability to read by third grade is a strong predictor of high school dropout rates. In Orange County Public Schools, 46% of third graders are not reading proficiently; 37% in Seminole and 55% in Osceola counties. Research shows these numbers are highest for students of low socioeconomic backgrounds.

The iREAD program successfully addresses these deficits through hands-on multisensory activities, direct instruction based on clinically based methods and weekly progress monitoring. Participants in the first two years of the iRead program demonstrated gains in reading comprehension and spelling ability.

Orlando Magic Youth Foundation’s support will allow the iREAD program to expand, increasing the number of participants for Summer 2023 from 26 to 51.

This expansion in Summer 2023 will also allow the program to be more accessible, with a move to the UCF Downtown campus in Orlando’s urban core, blocks from the heart of the Holden/Parramore neighborhood. In this neighborhood, the 2022 Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) test showed that 78% of third-grade students are not able to read proficiently – significantly higher than the local averages for the public schools in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties.

The Orlando Magic Youth Foundation’s investment in the iREAD program has the potential to change the futures of students from this historic and culturally rich community and help improve high school graduation rates.

The iREAD program is supported by 35 graduate student clinicians from education and communication sciences and disorders programs at UCF who will help deliver services alongside faculty members as part of their graduate program. At least half of these students are expected to work in local schools after graduation, where they’ll continue to create a positive impact on the learning and future academic success of children in the community.