Twenty minutes of reading a day can introduce a child to 1.8 million words a year. Whether it’s books before bed or books after the soccer game, those 20 minutes add up to more than new words and new vocabulary. Twenty minutes a day helps develop a firm foundation for reading comprehension and is a key to success for Tennessee’s children.

It’s a fact that Tennessee’s kids are the fastest-improving in the nation in education. Their continued growth and achievement are evidence that Tennessee is getting closer to realizing our goal that every child in every classroom has an opportunity to succeed. Those gains are strong, and worth advancing, but there is still work to be done. In 2015, we learned our third- through eighth-graders were falling behind when it came to literacy and reading comprehension. Less than half of those students statewide were reading on grade level.

Like many things in the classroom, there is an urgency to turn these numbers around. We know that students who aren’t reading on grade level by the third grade are unlikely to ever catch back up to their peers. Opportunities for success will be fewer for these students, and their achievement in other subject areas is likely to weaken.


That’s why we launched TristarReads in May. Our summer reading program began as an initiative encouraging all of Tennessee’s kids, adults and families to read 20 minutes a day throughout the summer. We know it’s much too likely that our young scholars wouldn’t be reading over the summer and would be at risk of losing ground during the summer slide. By logging their reading hours, they would be eligible to receive one of our three $500 scholarships and would be well on their way to success this fall. As a part of TristarReads, we asked Tennessee’s adults to join young readers and volunteer to read-logging those hours this summer as well.

Over 12 weeks, TristarReads participants logged 1,162 hours of time reading this summer. That equates to 5,810 20-minutes-of-reading sessions. That’s a lot of new words introduced to Tennessee’s young readers! Our TristarReads winner logged 496 hours read this summer, and our adult winner read 20 hours with our kids. Success comes through practice, and we are proud of all the time spent this summer in a book.

TristarReads might be over for the summer, but that doesn’t mean our kids should put down their books. Too much is at stake to allow our young students to slide backward. Encouraging your children, the kids in your family, the young ballerinas in your dance class and the kids who play sports on Saturday to pick up a book and practice the reading skills learned in their class can make all the difference. As fall break begins, set aside 20 minutes a day for reading. You might be surprised how far those 1.8 million new words can go toward success.

Adam Lister
President and CEO, Tennesseans for Student Success

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