From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
MOUNTAIN BROOK — Better Basics is a nonprofit organization in Birmingham whose programs provide students in low-income, under-resourced areas of Alabama with the opportunity to develop crucial academic skills necessary to be successful in school and in life.
According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA), in 2017, only 28 percent of Alabama third-grade students were reading at a proficient level and only half of third graders were proficient in math. In low-income areas, those numbers are significantly lower. A contributing challenge is what educators call summer slide. During the summer, children in poverty typically lose at least two months of learning, often more. This means they return to school in the fall two or more months behind where they were the previous spring. Tragically, research shows that summer slide is actually cumulative. So, a child who loses two months each summer will be a year-and-a-half behind by eighth grade.
Reaching children at critical, early stages with the support needed is crucial to continued academic development and long-term school success. Better Basics programs offer a wide-range of reading and mathematical literacy support for schools in our community. Trussville resident, and former Trussville educator and administrator, Dr. Kristi Stacks Bradford is the executive director of Better Basics. Bradford employs retired teachers and willing volunteers who deliver rich lessons to close academic gaps that prevent children from becoming proficient readers or mathematicians.
“Relationships and know-how are the driving forces behind what we do,” Bradford said. “Our certified teachers work with only three students at a time. Customizing reading and mathematics lessons for children based on specific deficits promotes understanding.”
Established in 1993, Better Basics is founded on the premise that illiteracy and poverty are closely linked. Better Basics’ 10 unique programs are based on research that indicates reading skills are the foundation of all learning and that students who lack these vital skills have little hope of succeeding in school or life. Better Basics’ services impact children from pre-K through sixth grade, primarily in lower-income neighborhoods in Clay, Jefferson, Shelby and Talladega County Schools, along with Birmingham, Leeds, Midfield and Fairfield City Schools. The program helps increase students’ literacy and mathematics ability, infuse literature into their homes, and give them opportunities to experience multi-cultural arts and enrichment performances. Better Basics served over 28,000 children last year and distributed over 74,000 books.
As is often the case, needs are unlimited but the resources to meet those needs are not. To help close the gap, Better Basics will be hosting the Love for Literacy gala on Feb. 16 from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $95 and participants will enjoy an evening dinner, drinks and dancing in their cocktail party attire at the Grand Bohemian in Mountain Brook. Tickets may be purchased at www.betterbasics.org.
“We have had boots on the ground in the literacy fight here in Birmingham for the last 25 years,” Bradford said. “We bring that deep institutional knowledge to bear on the services we implement. We know our communities and their specific needs. All funds raised during the Love for Literacy gala on Saturday, Feb. 16, will go toward improving and expanding our 10 unique academic and enrichment programs so that we can reach more children in more communities.”