Start Reading Now helps close the achievement gap for low-income kids in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade in Minneapolis Public Schools. They do that by helping kids create their very own library of 30 books, built over three summers. This directly addresses the fact that on average, low-income kids have less than one book at home, which means they have nothing to read over the summer.

If you don’t have books, you don’t read. If you don’t read, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, you fall behind, and are quickly on the short end of the stick for life. So they get kids books. It costs less than $50 per year, per kid.

The program is based on research that shows letting kids create their own, substantial library over three summers has a bigger effect on reading scores than three years of summer school, at 1/60th of the cost. Another key feature is that it is incredibly easy to implement: Start Reading Now's book vendor brings the books to each school, their volunteers set up the book fair, and within an hour they are ready to have kids shop for 10 books each. Kids pay for the books with the vouchers given to them, and pack up their new possessions in the small backpack they also provide. That’s it!

Start Reading Now launched in June 2014 when they served 330 kids at five Minneapolis locations. That grew to 600 kids in 2015, and they are set to reach 2,000 kids in Minneapolis in 2016, thanks in large part to donations from The Foundation and Atomic Data.