In 2015, a group of middle school students from the Tarrant City public school system had the opportunity to experience Read to Lead learning games for the first time. Enrolled in a summer program in their hometown of Tarrant, Alabama, they quickly learned what it meant to “be the boss.” They were introduced to diverse storylines and characters that allowed them to imagine careers and communities beyond their suburb in Birmingham.

Six years later, these students are now high schoolers who took time to look back and reflect on their Read to Lead experiences, including how they feel about reading and writing and what they hope to accomplish in the future. Of the seven students surveyed, all of them remember Read to Lead positively, noting that the learning games made their summer learning experiences more fun. 

The transformative impact of Read to Lead

One of the students from the first Read to Lead cohort in Tarrant is NaCoriya, who is currently a tenth grader. When she was in middle school, Read to Lead helped her realize that reading and writing could be fun and would be useful for any career she chose. She now believes reading is a fundamental skill that expands vocabulary and thought processes, improves her school performance, and opens doors to career possibilities. 

While playing the role of the boss in Read to Lead, NaCoriya also saw the value of being a leader. Inside the virtual workplace scenario, she began to weigh her thoughts and decisions and to consider other people’s input before making a big decision. Additionally, she felt encouraged to discover leadership qualities within herself. 

NaCoriya shares, “At first, I didn’t think I was made out to be a leader because I was shy and quiet, but after playing the game, it helped to bring me out of that!” 

She clearly remembers playing Community in Crisis, a game where she played the director of a community center that was responding to the effects of a hurricane in a fictional Port Douglas community. Because of the learning game, she found herself researching information about Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that hurricanes can cause in a community. She also recalls her favorite episode, in which she coordinated a team of volunteers to reunite a little boy with his mother, after he wandered off in the aftermath of the storm. 

Through her Read to Lead learning experience, NaCoriya has gained both literacy skills and a greater sense of agency. She enjoys writing to express her ideas and opinions on different topics. She also sees the importance of a leadership mindset and feels inspired to help her community and those around her. 

Thriving as the leaders of tomorrow

As NaCoriya continues her high school journey, she feels confident about the future ahead of her. She hopes to improve her GPA, get into a good college and law school, and become a lawyer. If she doesn’t end up practicing law, her plan is to pursue nursing as an alternative path. 

When asked if she would recommend Read to Lead to others, NaCoriya said, “Yes, especially to entering 5th graders because they enjoy their own things and don’t always want to sit down and read. This is in game form, and kids enjoy that. They will get to make decisions and choices, and will have fun – just like we did!” 

Since 2015, more than 1,500 students in Tarrant City Schools and in Greater Birmingham have benefited from Read to Lead digital learning games and lessons. Our partnerships in Greater Birmingham are made possible by the generous support of the Max and Lorayne Cooper Foundation, who this spring made a leadership grant of $500,000 to continue to expand our impact in the community over the next three years. 

About Read to Lead

Read to Lead uses the power of game-based learning to empower middle school students to build literacy, life, and career skills. Teachers can sign up for a free account to get started!