The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading today will recognize the Los Angeles-based Beutner Family Foundation for its Vision To Learn program that has provided free eye exams to more than 21,000 children and free glasses to 16,000 of them.
The program will be honored as a GLR Campaign Pacesetter Program, a distinction that reflects its contribution to improving academic achievement and, with that, life prospects for young children in California.
“Because of Vision To Learn, the prospects for these children, like the words they now see on the page, are clearer and brighter,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the GLR Campaign. “And the Beutner Family Foundation has offered a model that can inspire funders and communities across the nation to tackle and solve an eminently solvable problem.”
The recognition will come at a gathering Friday of foundations and donors working with the GLR’s Campaign to increase the number of low-income children who master reading by the end of third grade. More than 100 national, state and local funders support the Campaign’s efforts, many of them working in the 140+ communities that are aligned with the early reading goal.
Vision To Learn provides free eye exams and free glasses to elementary school students in low-income communities in Northern California and in the Los Angeles Unified School District. State-of-the-art mobile eye clinics staffed by opthalmologists and optometrists bring these services right to the school site, overcoming both financial and logistical challenges that often keep children from getting the help that they need. Students identified through preliminary screenings done by the school district receive eye exams and, if needed, glasses with frames that they choose themselves.
According to a study by the UCLA Schools of Medicine and Public Health, more than 20 percent of elementary school students in low-income communities have vision problems, and 96 percent of those students who need glasses do not have them. Students with untreated eye problems tend to have lower academic performance that diminishes prospects for their futures.
Vision To Learn is changing that picture. The UCLA study found that students who have benefited from the program’s services show improved academic performance and increased confidence and focus leading to better classroom behavior and more participation. Other local foundations and businesses are joining the Beutner Family Foundation to expand the program so that more children can benefit and be well on their way to reading and school success.
“Vision To Learn and my family foundation are honored to receive the Pacesetter Award by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading,” said Austin Beutner, Vision To Learn Founder and Chairman. “We see firsthand the importance of grade-level reading in the schools we are in every day. We are proud to be working to ensure the campaign’s success by providing the glasses kids need to read their textbooks and see the board, putting them on a path to succeed in school and in life.”
The GLR Campaign has bestowed Pacesetter Honors on several community coalitions and states since 2012, and in April named its first Pacesetter Partners: the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services and Sesame Workshop.
Launched in May 2010, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, government agencies, business leaders, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. It focuses on reading proficiency by the end of third grade, a key predictor of high school graduation and a milestone missed by fully 80 percent of low-income children.