(Photo credit Gary Bassing, Orlando Magic. April 4, 2023 L to R: Alex Martins, CEO of the Orlando Magic and Chair of UCF Board of Trustees; Rodney M. Grabowski, CEO of the UCF Foundation and Sr. VP of Advancement and Partnerships; Dan DeVos, Chairman, Orlando Magic; and Lori Shuff, Assistant Vice President of Corporate and Foundation Relations, UCF Advancement and Partnerships.)

A $50,000 gift from the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation will bolster reading skills in school-aged children who participate in UCF iREAD   — intensive Reading Enrichment for Academic Development — an intervention program for students who do not show reading proficiency.

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

A recent 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. For the last two years, significant gains in participants’ reading comprehension and spelling ability have been noted.

OMYF’s support would allow the iREAD program to expand, doubling the number of participants for 2023-2024 from 26 to 81 — adding 25.

This expansion in summer 2023 will also allow the program to be more accessible, with a move to establish a location at the UCF Downtown campus in Orlando’s urban core, blocks from the heart of the Holden/Paramore 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.