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Who We Are

Reading Universe is produced by three premier non-profit organizations: WETA/Reading Rockets, the Barksdale Reading Institute, and First Book.

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Scaling Success Nationally

We are deeply grounded in the remarkable story of The Barksdale Reading Institute (BRI), founded by Jim Barksdale to advance literacy in his home state of Mississippi. Over the last decade, thanks largely to BRI's efforts, Mississippi's reading achievement rankings have improved dramatically to make more progress in its reading scores than any other state. WETA/Reading Rockets and First Book have joined forces with BRI to transform the original Reading Universe into a modern, multimedia-rich, national platform to better support educators with reading instruction.

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WETA

WETA is the flagship public media company in Washington, D.C., and a major national producer of programs for PBS, including the nightly PBS NewsHour with Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett, along with Ken Burns's documentaries such as The U.S. and The Holocaust, and projects by Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., such as Finding Your Roots. WETA has also produced a dozen programs about literacy for PBS and developed a group of ambitious local and national education projects including the D.C.-based Ready to Learn initiative.

WETA has long provided extensive educational resources through media and community engagement. Reading Universe will join the array of WETA's award-winning Learning Media sites, the most notable being ReadingRockets.org. Reading Rockets is the deepest and most widely-used site in the field of reading, serving more than one million unique visitors every month, winning numerous national awards, including the David M. Rubenstein Prize, the top honor in the Library of Congress Literacy Awards program.

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Barksdale Reading Institute

The Barksdale Reading Institute works to improve the overall quality of public education in Mississippi through strategic literacy initiatives and the providing professional development to teachers and administrators. BRI was founded in 2000 by Jim and Sally Barksdale, who, after researching the state of education in America, became convinced that reading is the most fundamental skill that every child must master in order to become successful.

The Barksdales' $100 million dollar investment established the Barksdale Reading Institute and funded the Mississippi Principal Corps, a program that trains and develops highly-effective school administrators throughout the state. The Barksdales' generosity enabled BRI to partner with public schools, public universities and the state department of education to dramatically improve the quality of reading education in Mississippi's schools.

Watch the BRI Story
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First Book

First Book is a non-profit social enterprise with a 30-year record of success in soliciting and understanding educator needs and aggregating and elevating educator voices to drive product and service design as well as delivery. First Book has the capacity to target its 500,000-member grassroots network of K-12 practitioners by geographic location, program type, ages of children served, job title, and other parameters.

First Book's research arm has substantial qualitative and quantitative market research capacities to engage, understand, and empower the First Book Network, and to inform the market strategies of related organizations and initiatives.

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Barksdale Reading Institute: The Mississippi Story

This video tells the story of the Barksdale Reading Institute's success in Mississippi.

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Work with Us

Partners are vital to our efforts to help educators as they teach children to read and write. From funding to outreach, your support is welcome. Please reach out to discuss how you would like to get involved.

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Reading Universe is made possible by generous support from Jim & Donna Barksdale, the American Federation of Teachers, the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, and three anonymous donors.

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